Thursday, October 29, 2015

Upper Green stockmen navigate constant griz threat

In early July Albert Sommers was in an all-terrain vehicle checking up on the thousands of cattle that graze the vast rangelands near the headwaters of the Green River. Sommers is Sublette County’s representative in the Wyoming House and president of the Upper Green River Cattle Association. On that day he was also looking for signs of grizzly bear activity: a dead calf, a spooked herd of cattle or even tracks. Keeping tabs on bears and their doings is a part of daily life on Union Pass. An hour into the drive Sommers opened a barbed wire gate to access the Mud Lake East grazing unit, the first parcel he reached that day that had cows in it. Not far down the road past the gate, a grizzly bear track as wide as two human palms was imprinted in the dirt on one side of the two-track. “A 7-inch track is a big bear,” Sommers said as he hunched down to give it a look. “You see we didn’t hit any of these tracks until we got in here. It’s where the food source is.” Five years ago wildlife managers confirmed 20 Upper Green livestock depredations that could be attributed to grizzlies. In 2014 the count of grizzly-killed cattle was 66 — at the time a record. In response, last year eight grizzlies were relocated from the Upper Green and managers killed two more bears that had a history of killing cows. This year was even worse, preliminary Game and Fish data shows. Grizzly bears this summer and fall were confirmed to have killed 79 head of livestock. Five grizzlies that made a kill lost their lives in response, and another nine bears were captured and relocated. “This was the worst year we’ve ever had — worse than last year,” Sommers said...more

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