From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 22 - August 29, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Thirteen grizzlies in Upper Green
Three wolf packs roaming in region
by Cat Urbigkit

Evidence of grizzly bear recovery is abundant in Sublette County this year with grizzlies being seen on a routine basis in the Upper Green River region.

Bob Klarén, cattle foreman for the Upper Green River Cattle Association, said in an interview this week that riders for the association have counted a total of 13 grizzly bears in the Upper Green River region this summer, including at least three sows with cubs.

"As far as we can tell on the association's allotments, there are 13 so far, from what we've seen," Klarén said.

These animals are 25 miles outside the official grizzly bear recovery zone and aren't even counted as part of the criteria toward reaching recovery.

While Klarén doesn't see the bruins every day, he said he has "been seeing their tracks nearly every day we go out," and the bears have been fairly visible as well. A week ago, he watched a sow and two cubs devouring a cow carcass (belonging to Zac Roberts) for about an hour.

Not all grizzlies in the area are killing livestock, but there have been some confirmed kills. Klarén said one morning he was horseback and saw "a grizzly come running toward us at a lope, then it zigzagged, and made a bee-line to a pond, where it picked up a carcass and never stopped running."

Klarén loped after the bear until it dropped the calf carcass so it could be confirmed as a grizzly kill.

As if having one federally protected predator in the area killing livestock weren't enough, add three packs of wolves to the mix. Federal officials confirm there are three wolf packs using the Upper Green River region this year.

Klarén said there have been three confirmed incidents in the last 10 days where cattle have been killed by wolves. In addition to the confirmed kills, there have been four head of "walking wounded" cattle that had to be destroyed or later died because of severe injury from predator attacks.

Klarén pointed out that the problems caused by depredations by grizzlies and wolves are more than having a few animals killed. When a predator kills cattle on the allotments, "it keeps the cattle so stirred up, they're not gaining weight like they should."

Klarén confirmed it also makes the cattle harder to manage. It becomes difficult to have the cattle use an area where depredations have occurred, the cattle will refuse to be pushed into such areas, and they'll start walking the fences, looking for a way out, Klarén said.

"They just keep the cattle stirred up all the time, or at least a good part of the time," Klarén said, and spooky cattle are harder to manage.

Klarén's been riding for the association for nearly 20 years. He's acknowledges the beauty and power of a grizzly bear, but added, "It's a joy to see them, if they'd leave the cattle alone."

"A good portion of the bears aren't doing anything but making the cattle nervous," Klarén said, but there are some stock killers in the region also.

There seems to be no future relief from predator pressures. Mike Jimenez of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed in a recent interview that in areas of Wyoming where livestock roam in conjunction with wolf packs, every pack of wolves has killed livestock at some point in time. Jimenez emphasized that it wasn't necessarily every year, and it wasn't necessarily a chronic problem, but yes, the depredations did occur with every wolf pack.

Jimenez said no one with any knowledge of the issue will say that wolves don't kill livestock, but his agency's goal is "to keep it at a very low number."

Since wolves have killed cattle in the Upper Green recently, U.S.D.A. Wildlife Services has been in the area attempting to trap wolves; not to remove the animals, but to place radio collars on them, "to figure out which wolves are doing what," Jimenez said. With the calf carcasses being consumed so quickly, Jimenez said it appears more than one wolf is involved.

With three packs using the area at least part of the time, Jimenez said simply "killing a wolf isn't going to solve the problem." Instead, the agency wants to place radio collars on any wolf captured and "follow it back to figure out what pack is causing the problem."

The three packs with overlapping ranges in the area include the Green River pair, which consists of two collared animals, which federal officials believe may have one or two pups in the area; the Gros Ventre pack, which probably consists of four to six wolves; and the Washakie pack, which is made up of about a dozen wolves and usually makes the news for killing livestock in the Dunoir area near Dubois. Federal officials have killed three members of the Washakie pack so far this year.

The Green River pair consists of a male wolf originally from Yellowstone National Park and a female wolf originally from the Gros Ventre pack. Jimenez said monitoring of these wolves is increasing, with agency officials flying the area twice a week to learn the pair's whereabouts and to try to determine if they have pups, as well as "give producers a heads up when we find them."

While the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has already approved its plan for how it will manage grizzly bears once they are removed from federal protection, many ranchers feel the protections and restrictions for grizzlies in the state plan, combined with the lack of provisions protecting livestock and private property, provides a poor alternative to simply continuing federal management, even with its limitations.

The state grizzly plan calls for expansion of occupied grizzly bear range across a broader scale of western Wyoming real estate - in fact all of western Wyoming from Kemmerer to Farson and north to the Montana border. The state plan calls for more restrictions on human activities than currently in place under federal protection, with less assurance that livestock depredations and damage to private property will be handled effectively.

WG&F is also currently developing a wolf management plan and once again, ranchers dread the plan, with the bitter taste of the grizzly plan fresh in their mouths.

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