Alberta Fish and Wildlife has success helicoptering road kill to hungry grizzly bears in the springtime

Will this program stem the decline of grizzlies in SW Alberta?

Grizzlies are on the decline in Alberta. The province has far fewer bears than adjacent British Columbia and even fewer than the state of Montana to its south.

Resource development such as tar sands, natural gas exploration and development all along the Rocky Mountain foothills, and road building have taken a major toll. For years too  there has been a major conflict between ranchers in SW Alberta and the grizzlies. Dr. Brian Horejsi recently weighed in on this in the Wildlife News.

In the late 1990s, a program was started to clean up the roadways of road kill in SW Alberta, and to provide the carcasses to grizzlies following their traditional springtime migration patterns downhill from their dens as they search for new vegetation and winterkill.  Now there are about 15 years experience dropping the carcasses from helicopters to likely grizzly bear areas.

The Great Falls Tribune (Montana) has produced a substantial article on “the Drop,” as it is locally called. The Drop takes place on the plains adjacent to the Rockies from the Montana border northward to the Crowsnest Pass area, a stretch of the Canadian Rockies that, aside from Waterton National Park,  is mostly devoted to resource development. The program seems to be having some success. More grizzlies are being sighted east of the Rockies out on the Alberta plains (though the same thing is happening in Montana without a Drop).








  1. ZeeWolf Avatar

    Is this the future of wildlife management, were all the large mammals will become permanent wards of the state? I guess it has already happened. It is better than not having bears on the ground. The engineer in me that can relate to the mathmatical rational for recycling also likes putting the road kill to good use.

    I reread Dr. Horejsi’s article and agree with his assessment of grizzly and livestock interactions and thier consequences. It seems like his ideas could be put to good use in a place like, say, Gardiner, Montana and might work with other predators as well.

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    One of the major problems concerning wild predators and ranchers is that many ranchers are so sloppy,lazy, and cheap (don’t want to pay to properly dispose of the animal at the county dump), in the way they dispose of dead livestock. Most of them have a “bonepile” where they drag dead cows to decompose. These “bonepiles” attract bears and wolves which the ranchers then complain about. “Bonepiles” are not always on private land.
    Ranchers in the Lost River Valley in Idaho, where I spent my teenage years, just hooked a chain to the dead cow, horse or sheep and used their tractors to drag the dead animal to the nearest BLM ground at the end of the county roads.
    All county roads in the Lost River Valley, ending up on public land (BLM or USFS), had a “bonepile” at the end of the road. I suspect that many of them still dump their dead animals there today.

  3. Rancher Bob Avatar
    Rancher Bob

    One correction is that Montana bear biologist with the help of ranchers has been placing carcasses on the Montana eastern front for grizzlies for many years. They just don’t use a helicopter.

    What county dump knowingly takes dead animals? None that I know.

    1. SAP Avatar

      We can put them in the dump here in Madison County for a fee. Horses, sheep, cattle, roadkilled critters of all sorts.

      1. SaveBears Avatar

        The Flathead county landfill will also accept animals and animal parts.

    2. CodyCoyote Avatar

      The public county-run landfills in Park County WY all have animal carcass dump pits and charge a small fee for it.

    3. ZeeWolf Avatar

      I know that at least in Colorado, both Gunnison and Custer counties’ landfills will accept carcasses, for a fee.

    4. Rancher Bob Avatar
      Rancher Bob

      Thanks for the answers, I have a transfer station type dump, not the place for dead animals took until last year to get it fenced to keep the bears out. Nothing like looking down at a bear in a dump bin.

      1. SAP Avatar

        Fencing a bad one down here this summer. Carcasses are supposed to go to the bigger transfer station in town, but with un-staffed sites, it’s a free for all. Have seen bears, raccoons, stray dogs, eagles, ravens, all hanging out there for goodies. DOT sometimes puts roadkilled elk in there.

      2. SAP Avatar

        Sorry for taking the discussion so far from your main point.

        It would be great for boneyards to become a thing of the past, but I have been on remote ranches where no one leaves for a week at a time because it’s calving time or the weather has gone to hell or what have you. It’s easy to see how the dead pile has stuck around — I guess the alternative would be staging a bunch of carcasses somewhere so they could be hauled off to the landfill whenever someone got a free moment. Or, implement a carcass removal service like up your way.

        I’ve never found it very effective to say to someone, “hey, I want you to change the way you do things, because you’re ‘sloppy, lazy, and cheap.’”

        Seek first to understand.

        1. Rancher Bob Avatar
          Rancher Bob

          Solutions some times have to be tailored to the operation, depending on the problem.
          One of the locals has problems with eagles in his calving yard then protective moms trampling young. Solution seems, put a carcass in a bee yard like system so the eagles have something to eat without feeding four legged types.
          Your right though it’s easy to look in from the outside and say those people need to change, without understanding why it is they do the things they do. Keep up the good work, one step at a time.

    5. Dawn Avatar

      On this question about county dumps taking dead animals. Most do. Where do you think euth. animals from shelters or private veterinary clinics go if someone doesn’t choose cremation or bury at home? Very few, if any animal shelters have a crematorium, so those animals go to the county dump. I unfortunately know this from experience.

  4. Allan Stellar Avatar

    I’m not sure how I feel about this. I hope it doesn’t get the Grizzly in even more trouble with local ranchers.


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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