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Montana Ag: Ranching with grizzlies - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Montana Ag: Ranching with grizzlies

Posted: 11/22/2017 16:27:00 -07:00 Updated:

Ranching along the Rocky Mountain Front has always been tough, but a growing population of grizzly bears can make that job even tougher.

Mike Briggs manages the Boone and Crockett Club's Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch west of Dupuyer. 

"This ranch is supposed to demonstrate some of the realities of livestock management and wildlife and how they intermingle," Briggs said.

While Briggs runs a cattle operation, his reality must also include grizzly bears, "I actually like ranching where there are grizzly bears."

Grizzly bears are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act since 1975. According to Briggs, the Act worked well, but an exit strategy was not designed. 

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear specialist Mike Madel said the grizzly bear population has expanded for at least ten years.

The Rocky Mountain Front is home to 150 to 200 bears.

"That's a lot of bears when you think about bears that have home range of 70 square miles like for a female," Madel said. "Or an adult male might have a home range of 200 square miles."

Briggs said with less space for bears to live together, more and more problems will arise, such as cattle depredation.

"When bears begin to prey on livestock, there's no doubt about it, we need to be more aggressive," Madel said.

Both Briggs and Madel agreed a new strategy is needed to help de-list grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide System.

In September, a possible announcement for de-listing grizzly bears in the NCDS was discussed during a presentation to the state's Environmental Quality Council.

If grizzlies are delisted, Montana will take over full management responsibilities. 

"I think if we could all collaboratively work together to get the grizzly bear delisted, that would be the most important step we could take right now," Briggs said. 

However, as Madel pointed out, there will be just as many grizzly bears in the region, but population growth may be limited.

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