Grizzly said to kill 70 sheep on Rocky Mountain Front. Updated 6/26/2012

4-year old sow is captured-

The Great Falls Tribune said that a sow griz killed 70 sheep “at three ranches in two weeks — including 58 at one ranch — in an unprecedented killing spree. . . [emphasis ours].  We can picture a drawing in a sensational magazine with a giant grizzly throwing hapless sheep in the air while it sunders others with a single bite of its mighty jaws! However, the reality was less scary.

The grizzly did kill some sheep, and got a taste for them.  It appears there was no “spree.”  Today the Associated Press reports that the bear was “responsible” for 70 deaths. It turns  out that many of the dead sheep were not killed by the bear but trampled by the rest of the herd, a not uncommon event that can be caused by a variety of factors.

USDA-Wildlife Services tried to hype the story, however. In the Great Falls Tribune the agent (Hoggan) was quoted. “This is very serious,” Hoggan said. “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It’s doing this for fun.”

They have captured the 4-year old sow. She has an underweight cub. The cub did not participate in the event.  Officials are evaluating whether to kill the bear or relocate the duo.

Defenders of Wildlife will reimburse for the losses.

Here is the AP story.  The Billings Gazette headline writer still has her killing 70 sheep. “Wildlife managers catch grizzly that killed 70 sheep.” Associated Press in the Billings Gazette.

– – – – –

Grizzly not executed, but moved far way to the North Fork of the Flathead. By Tara Grimes MTN News.  The grizzly sow and her cub have been given another chance and moved to a place as far as possible from sheep — the North Fork of the Flathead near Frozen Lake. That is miles to the NW, up against the B.C. border. By way of explanation, under Montana’s grizzly regulations for the area, a grizzly bear is given 3 strikes with livestock before it is killed. This the first for this bear, but due to the number of dead sheep she will not be allowed a second depredation.






  1. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Every time I hear or read a story of an apex predator taking some domestic livestock , I have a basic set of fundamental questions …which are almost never asked/answered during the reporting, or more likely withheld by one agency or affected party.

    We never hear the history of the livestock prior to the incidents and the history of predation problems in the same place. We do not know the circumstances leading in or the physical layout of the incident area. We have no evidence of the animal husbandry used by the stockgrower. The identity and location of the affected rancher is usually not made public. Agriculture protects its own while indicting the external “aggressor”. In short, we aren’t given details. Wildlife Services is especially bad about covering its own duff and protecting its stockgrower clientele . It hold the cards close.

    This patter is rote where I live in Cody WY. Wolves took 16 cattle in my county last year, described only in the reportage as ” west of Cody ” without naming names or identifying the ranches or location of incident with any specificity whatsoever. It’s rare that we learn the basics of a particular livestock loss to predators. The entirety of animal damage agricultural statistic reporting is an insider’s game.

    ir ecall the incident a few years ago where 120 sheep were killed by a wolf pack over in southwest Montana. Turns out the owners had previous issues with wolves and some minor losses, but did nothing to defend against any future losses, even the most simple cost effective nonlethal measures like hanging strips of bright fabric on the fences , a/k/a/ fladry. The owners did nothing in the face of a continued wolf presence to guard their valuable animals. They left themselves wide open, and the wolves came back.

    So at the very least we need to aggressively assert that any compensation or action taken by Wildlife Services be predicated on the agencies being more forthcoming . How else are we going to achieve the goal of educating the public and stakeholder communities about living with the new ( old) paradigm of apex predators, a goal that everybody gives lip service to from both sides, if we don;t have basic facts about actual livestock loss incidents ?

    Which is why I am again very skeptical about stories like this one. WHAT did the stockgrower do— or not do— to prevent this ? What can we learn ??

    The duplicity of Wildlife Services and other ag agencies is another topic for great skepticism.

    1. elk275 Avatar

      Even on private property miles from any federal lands? Should an individual livestock producer have to protect their animals 50 to 100 miles from any large tract of federal land. A grizzly was killed on the Beartooth Front on private lands north of Red Lodge this weekend after killing cattle last year and this year.

      Since you know the area should a rancher have to protect their livestock in the Roberts/Joliet/Bridger area. I grew up in Billings and spent the summers at the base of the Beartooth Highway. Grizzlies were not in that area in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and a few in the late 00’s, now they are common. The man I purchased a mule from lives in Bridger, Montana and there has been reports of grizzlies in the Bridger area. The Red Lodge biologist spent more time last summer dealing with grizzlies than in the last 33 years, so much time that other studies were not completed. Exactly how far should grizzly bear range be expanded? All the way to Billings? Grizzly bear habitat is filling up and a no vacancy sign is going to be turned on sooner than later.

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        This grizzly was a real outlier, but the story is interesting in general because it was an outlier, not just because some damn sheep were killed (which will be compensated!). I do want to know the layout of the area and the details, not just that there are dead sheep and a bunch of mythology that it was a killing spree by an awful, terrible, wicked, unholy bear.

      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        I think the real story here is that there was a grizzly with her cub so far from the Front. This is wonderful news, and it should have been the story, not that a bunch of sheep failed to live (so typical).

        1. SEAK Mossback Avatar
          SEAK Mossback

          Sheep can be pretty difficult animals to keep alive in any conditions, predators or not. My folks raised them in northern California (Lake County), just at the margin of my memory, but I remember my mother naming off an impressive list of ways sheep could find to die. One of the many was soaking up weight from rain and rolling downhill to their deaths. And on top of all the identifiable causes, some sheep just seemed to lie down and die for no reason. A fair number of ewes simply wanted nothing to do with the lambs, so she would take all the “bummer lambs” inside by the hearth and bottle feed them. Coyotes were just another issue on top of everything else, although the government trapper provided free service placing cyanide guns around the place (one of which killed our dog). It did not seem like an attractive business on private land. When you add in impact on forage for wildlife, diseases (particularly in bighorn sheep) and taxpayer funded predator control — it doesn’t look particularly attractive from a public landowner perspective either.

          I may have mentioned this before, but Clay Butte in the Beartooths used to be on what appeared to be a 2-year rotation and got hit hard with sheep every other year. Once in early September, I found an entire gully full of dead sheep (perhaps mortalities from the entire summer) that black bears were feeding on. I approached unaware upwind and heard what sounded like water, but turned out to be the rustling of zillions of cascading maggots . . . . the bear leavings in the snow looked like plates of rice and gravy. Sorry, hopefully it’s well past dinner time in more eastern time zones . . . . Anyway, it certainly didn’t do anything to whet my personal appetite for mutton or enthusiasm for sheep, but made me think what a magnet that situation must be for predators to have carcasses deposited all summer — and I wondered how many might have been shot and stashed around out of sight, but couldn’t stand the odor long enough to investigate. Now, there would be considerably more grizzlies around to get involved too.

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan


            That is one incredible horrible story!

            I want to add that it isn’t unusual for sheep to be struck by lightning up on those alpine plateaus. Quite a few can get killed that way, but bears do sometimes get blamed when they find one or two feeding on a pile of sheep carcasses from a lightning strike.

            1. CodyCoyote Avatar

              I recall early on in the wolf reintroduction saga seeing a table of livestock losses in Montana. When it came to domestic Sheep there were what seems a thousand ways to die , including the mere act of rolling over on their back on not getting up.” Other Causes”

              I once phoned in a report of 50-60 dead sheep littered around a stock pond ( but none floating in the pond) about ten miles out of Meeteetse WY . Never heard what the cause of death was, but it wasn’t predation. Up on top of Carter Mountain not far from there, over 100 elk were killed when they stampeded off a cliff. Why ? ¿ Quien sabe ?

              The only thing worse than circumstantial evidence is no evidence at all. Speculation is cheap.

              I’m guessing that sow got her teeth and claws into just a few sheep, and the rest of them caused their own demise by panicking.

              and—Where are the sheepherders when you really need them…

        2. Deb Avatar

          I agree, but highlighting wildlife success stories doesn’t justify the existence of a “Wildlife” Service nor does it give those rancher/farmer/stockgrower a means to get compensated for an animal or group of animals that are old/sick/no longer wanted. They make it too easy to blame the natural predators of the land. They’re just ringing the dinner bell, getting paid, and probably getting their thrill kill fix in all at the same time.

      3. sleepy Avatar

        They seem to be edging ever closer to the Bighorn Canyon area and, perhaps, eventually to the Bighorn Mountains themselves, though I doubt if either the states or the feds will go along with that movement.

        At some point, there will be a grizzly hunt established. Hopefully, it will not be part of an effort to restrict grizzlies solely to Glacier NP and YNP.

    2. SAP Avatar

      Cody Coyote wrote ” even the most simple cost effective nonlethal measures like hanging strips of bright fabric on the fences , a/k/a/ fladry.”

      CC, we’ve covered this here before but it bears repeating: I’ve put up runs of electrified fladry that were up to five miles long. That may sound like a lot, but consider that the perimeter of a flat, square 40 acre parcel = 1 mile. You could easily be looking at 4-5 miles of fladry to do a pasture of just a few hundred acres.

      In my experience, fladry has to be electrified. First, if it’s not, livestock get curious about it and tear it down, trample it, whatever. Second, because wolves may overcome their neophobic aversion to the fluttering flags in a very short time, you need the electric shock to reinforce their aversion and keep them out.

      So, you might need a few miles of fladry plus the skill and equipment to electrify it. It’s not like plugging in a string of Christmas lights.

      If you’re really efficient and organized, count on 10-20 person-hours per mile of eFladry, depending on terrain and complexity of electrifying the line (eg., if the fladry line crosses over existing fence lines, you have to insulate all those crossings; and you have to make ‘gates’ in the fladry to let livestock and vehicles in and out).

      Then, depending on wind, terrain, wildlife movements, &c., count on regularly having to inspect and maintain the fladry line. This has the added benefit of increasing human presence around the livestock, but it can take a lot of time to make sure your fladry remains effective.

      Moral of the story, I think the jury is out on whether fladry is either simple or cost effective. In my experience, it’s a good tool because of its flexibility and impermanence — you can use it to get through a crisis, but there are better long-term tools available once you have time to plan and the resources to implement.

      Am also reaching the conclusion that no tools will let an operator get away with just leaving livestock unattended for days or weeks on end.

      1. Nancy Avatar

        “Am also reaching the conclusion that no tools will let an operator get away with just leaving livestock unattended for days or weeks on end”


      2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan

        SAP and Nancy,

        And that is just what western livestock interests in general want — the wild country made completely tame and free of all threats (including other users of the land) so that they can turn out in the spring and return in October to pick them up safe and fat.

        1. Nancy Avatar

          I like the word san·i·tize (sn-tz)

          “To make more acceptable by removing unpleasant or offensive features”

          Gotta live here 🙂 to relate to that definition and the mentality, so prevalent.

  2. Robert R Avatar
    Robert R

    Like it or not this is going to become more common because these bears have no choice but to expand because of the increasing population. Bears will be lost with as they encounter livestock making new home ranges.
    Believe me or not. My dad grew up around Thomson Falls and the Mission Valley and seen first hand what a bear does when killing livestock. He said horses and cattle did not amount to much but when a bear got into a flock of sheep a lot of sheep were killed at one killing. He wittinessed a bear killing and said that it was like the bear was confused and just started swatting after killing the first sheep.

  3. WM Avatar

    Looks like the no vacancy sign is up already. Two and half year old grizzly gets death for more depredation after a preventive relocation, then more depradation.

    What will happen as summer progresses?

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      I am speculating we will hear less of grizzlies this summer because there will be so many forest fires — real news — that these minor depredations will not be worth the newspaper space.

      1. WM Avatar


        Indeed, this will be the year of summer forest fires in the news, and we really are not even in fire season yet. The big one NW of Fort Collins, is still only 55% contained.

        However, I am inclined to believe some grizzlies will die, whether we hear much about it in the press or not. Let’s hope it is not as bad as last year.

        And, at least, so far, there have been no maulings of humans like last year that have made the news by about this time (I can’t remember, but I think one of the first was the retired MD police officer that was mauled by a grizzly in WY, while stream fishing. Might have been early July or so. But, one has already been hit and killed by a car in Teton NP, a couple weeks back.

        I expect FWS and Servheen’s delisting group are keeping a close tally.

        1. SAP Avatar

          WM – retired Baltimore PD guy was 2009:

          They were out in the sagebrush near Clark, WY, east of the Absaroka and northwest of Cody.

          1. WM Avatar


            Wow! I guess it has been that long. Thanks.

      2. DLB Avatar


        You might be right. You know what’s in the news today?

        With at least 8 active fires in Colorado, the temperature in Denver is predicted to break records by cracking 108 degress.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          108 degrees!! It doesn’t much matter what kind of vegetation the fire is in at the temperature. It will burn.

          I should I that I am just leaving for an evening walk in the hills here at Pocatello, ID. The temperature is only 72.

          1. WM Avatar

            I know this is off topic, but a friend just emailed me a couple photos taken from his law office in Boulder, CO. A forest fire started about four hours ago from a lightning strike, and has already racked up about 300 acres. Reports are it is up on the Walker Ranch (good hiking and mountain biking)near Eldorado Canyon. They are calling it the Flagstaff Fire. S. Boulder is being evacuated, as the fire is only one ridge away, or about 2 miles, and moving NE. Temps in the 90’s with breeze. Not good.


  4. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Many ranchers are too lazy to take their dead animals to the dump or properly bury them. Many of them drag their dead livestock to the nearest public land and dump the carcasses for the ravens, magpies, coyotes, wolves and bears to clean up. Then they whine and ask for public assistance when the predators start killing livestock instead of just eating the dumped dead ones.

    1. DLB Avatar

      A popular tactic is to put a bone yard in a spot which provides an advantage to ranchers who want to shoot the predators that show up. The one I was recently shown was in a small, three-sided ravine.

      1. bret Avatar

        Mike Hoggan with USDA Wildlife Services says the bear and her cub will be moved to an area near Frozen Lake in the Whitefish Range near the border of British Columbia, which puts her and her young cub about 160 miles from the ranches.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan


          Thank you. I thought that griz mom was dead for sure. I wonder what the mitigating circumstances were?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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