A Cowboy, His Cows and Grizzly Bears

This story was told to me by a cowboy in a bar when I was at an animal behavior conference in Idaho in late in February of 1999.  The story touched me so powerfully that when we'd finished our beers and said goodnight, I went straight back to my room and wrote down what he'd told me as close to verbatim as I could.  Here is his story. There is an allotment outside of Jackson, Wyoming where 800 cow calf pairs have grazed since 1912.  One cowboy has watched over them and their descendants since 1980.  It is high meadows, lush grass, ridges and a patch of white bark pine. The white  bark pine is signifiant not because of its density or its rarity, but because its pine nuts are a food source for grizzly bears. Because of this patch of trees, this allotment was included in part of the Grizzly bears' "Recovery Zone - Situation One," where all conflicts are to be resolved in favor of the bear. (The Grizzly Bear Recovery Program is managed by the US Fish and Wildife Service.) When it was originally suggested that this and another allotment be included in the recovery plan, the ranchers were skeptical.  They were worried about the potential for grizzly bear predation and its effect on their operations. "Not to worry," responded the Forest Supervisor. "If it comes to problems there's a clause that says bears can be removed for excessive predation on livestock."

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One thought on “A Cowboy, His Cows and Grizzly Bears

  1. Thank you for sharing Kathy, the solid tenacity of that rancher in solving a problem to the best of his ability is solid testament to what ranching is about. It cost dearly, but what he learned in the process will and am sure helps others in like boats.

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