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Grizzly Bear
© Jim Chagares

Grizzly Bear

Working with Ranchers

Grizzly bears are somewhat opportunistic omnivores that eat a wide variety of types of food from berries and bugs to elk. Their bodies require loads of calories to make it through winter. This is particularly true for females who start nursing cubs in January or February. So, as with all wild animals, grizzlies will take advantage of available food resources - and sometimes that means livestock. Cattle and sheep producers in the Northern Rockies are routinely at odds with recovering predator populations. Often times, these conflicts are highest when livestock is located in or near prime grizzly bear habitat.

How We’re Helping

In 1997, Defenders of Wildlife established the Grizzly Bear Compensation Trust to reimburse ranchers for livestock verified to have been killed by a grizzly bear. While not a perfect solution to the problem of livestock depredation by grizzly bears, this program increases tolerance for the species on the land.  Since 1997, we have paid over $390,000 to livestock producers in the northern Rockies. This program was launched with the intention to compensate until state, federal or tribal programs took its place. Wyoming currently runs its own compensation program, and as of October 1st, 2013 new legislation allows the state of Montana to run its own grizzly bear compensation program. Today, our program pays compensation only in the states of Idaho and Washington, allowing us to increase our efforts toward preventing grizzly conflicts in Wyoming and Montana.

Ideally, depredations are proactively avoided using tools and techniques that reduce a grizzly’s opportunity to prey on livestock. Our grizzly bear coexistence program assists producers with such items as: range riders to alert when a grizzly is near, livestock guard dogs, electric fencing around calving and lambing grounds and bear-resistant methods for securing garbage at homesites. Securing these items can greatly reduce depredations on livestock and keep grizzly bears from becoming habituated to people after feeding on garbage near homes and ranches. These methods can provide long-term solutions that save grizzlies while also protecting people’s property and livelihood. The fact is, grizzly bears and people are both on the landscape, and coexistence and tolerance are keys to long-term grizzly bear recovery.

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