Chicken coops latest Montana threat to grizzly bears

Remarkably low value activity results in grizzly bear deaths-

Wherever grizzly bears roam outside a much too small, couple of American national parks, they are often threatened by cattle and sheep, which many grizzlies figure out are made of meat.  Heroic efforts have been made over the years to keep grizzlies from discovering this source of food. There has been some success in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem in and near Glacier National Park.

Now, in a troubling irony, the New York Times reports that in NW Montana a sudden enthusiasm for raising small numbers of chickens has become a leading threat to grizzlies.  Chicklen coops are easy to smell and see, and grizzlies tear down these sheds and flimsy fences to get a modest meal of what what must seem like slow witted grouse.  Live chickens are worth less than a dollar, but a growing number of bears have been killed by grizzly bear managers as bears have learned that backyard chicken raising provides a seemingly easy small meal.

The details in the New York Times. Bears’ Taste for Chicken Sets Up Collision Course. By Felicity Barringer.






  1. Jon Way Avatar

    Interesting, the author talks about brown bears in New Jersey. An obvious typo since grizzlies are brown bears and black bears live in NJ and the rest of the east where browns/grizzlies never existed, even in historical times.

  2. Nancy Avatar

    Ralph – you can make a “tidy” sum $$ raising chickens if you’ve got an acre or two.

    These people “had” 116 chickens (which kind of exceeds the “I’m raising a few chickens for the fresh eggs & then selling a few to friends” crowd like myself 🙂

    If these were all layers, thats about 800 eggs a week, divided by 12 (then multiplied by $3 bucks a doz.) Can break it down in different directions if they also sold “free range” fryers.

    Not a bad way to supplement the income given how piss poor wages are in Montana & Idaho, compared to the national average.

    Point is though – if one decides to raise livestock (whether its big or small) it comes with all sorts of responsibilities because lets face it, most livestock continues to be poorly housed, penned, fenced (or just let loose) in areas where predators, in an ever decreasing landscape, are just looking for the next good meal.

    I’d be willing to guess these incidents of bear attacks didn’t just happen over night, I seem to recall about a year ago, on this site, hearing about bears being shot for invading chicken yards.

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I had a neighbor who insisted on letting his ducks and chickens run in his yard with no fencing. He then proceded to kill local foxes and skunks that were “attacking” his chickens and ducks. He was one of those anti-wolf nuts and went out of his way to tell me he had purchased two wolf tags last fall and intended on filling them.
    His plans hit a snag last October when he got drunk, threatened his wife with a rifle and then held off the county mounties for 6 hours and pulled a .45 handgun on them after they got his rifle away from him. He got tasered twice for his efforts.
    He won’t be shooting any wolves or foxes this year. He just left for the state pen to serve a 2-10 year sentence for his various offences.
    I think a lot of the ant-wolf, anti-grizzly and anti-fox folks out there are somewhat like my former neighbor. They are anti-everything including obeying common laws.

    1. Robert Bunch Avatar

      Hope someone in prison makes him their “girlfriend”.

      1. Mike Avatar

        I bet they think he’s real “foxy”.

  4. Robert R Avatar
    Robert R

    The fact is that the grizzly population is increasing and some need new home ranges which were once the open plains.
    All bears like any kind of grain or corn product and the foul is the bonus and also anyone with bird feeders. An easy meal equals death. I guess put your self in this situation and you make the call natural predation or defending your turf as the grizzly is.

  5. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    A few people have tried in the past to raise chickens around Yakutat, an area that is absolutely swarming with a variety of bears, brown & black (including glacier phase). I spent some time there in 1984 and by then it was considered unneighborly for anyone to have a chicken coop. If somebody wants to raise chickens under those circumstances, they would need to construct an impenetrable coop like a prison of concrete and heavy steel or have a very good electric fence set-up, and even the latter might not work if your neighbors aren’t as diligent and are successfully raided.

    1. Nancy Avatar

      Seak – I was fortunate enough to have an old log building on the place where I’ve set up roosts and nesting boxes.

      Chickens are “dead to the world” once they go to roost at night and are easy prey if the coop is poorly constructed.

      My “girls” have outdoor pens to wander around in. Would love to let them truely “free range” but with hawks, eagles and an assortment of 4 legged critters around, they wouldn’t last long. A nearby neighbor lets her chickens run loose and a fox just got a few of them…..the fox paid the price for her negligence.

      1. Mike Avatar

        That’s disturbing. Who killed the fox?

        1. Nancy Avatar

          Her husband.

          1. Mike Avatar

            What a screwed up world.

  6. Richie G Avatar
    Richie G

    O.K. so now we have to worry about chicken pens,whendo the animals get any rights. This has to hit many papers all over the country,so people who visit out their for wildlife will put up a fight, to wildlife in the so called open west.WE need Obama and change congress,then go after Salazar to be replaced.


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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