From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 3, Number 24 - 7/15/99
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Calf-Eating Grizzly Bear Destroyed
Large, ten-year old boar killed five calves, one yearling in the Upper Green.
by Rob Shaul

On Tuesday, Game & Fish officials euthanized a 550 pound, ten-year old male grizzly bear, which they trapped in a snare on Monday.

The bear was responsible for six confirmed cattle kills in five days in the Upper Green.

The first dead calf was found Thursday, July 8, says Upper Green River Cattle Association President Albert Sommers of Daniel. The last kill was found Monday, July 12. Mr. Sommers estimates this kill was 2-3 days old.

The grizzly took cattle belonging to at least five ranches. Mr. Sommers, Charles Price, Stan Murdock, and the New Fork Cattle Company each lost a calf. The Rendezvous Ranch lost a yearling. One dead calf couldn't be identified. Riders also found a half-buried yearling, though it couldn't be determined how the yearling had died.

The calves lost by Stan Murdock and Charles Price were fresh kills. Mr. Sommers said the grizzly ate only the brisket and the guts or "goodies inside." All of the kills had canine bite marks on the withers of the calf - a tell-tale sign of a bear kill. A black bear, which had been feeding on the kill, was trapped and released Friday.

The destroyed grizzly had been captured and collared in 1996 near Dubois during a research effort, but had no history of livestock depredation. Game Warden Dennis Almquist described him as a smart bear and very "trap wise." The bear had eluded several culvert and snare traps before being caught.

Measuring the bear after it was trapped.
Mr. Almquist added that this grizzly was, "by far, the largest bear caught in the Upper Green." After the bear was captured and tranquilized, it took several men to him lift up and weigh him with a spring scale. The men weren't tall enough to hoist the bear entirely off the ground. With the head and some of the rump still resting on the ground, the bear bottomed out the scale at 500 pounds. After it was destroyed, the bear weighed in at 550 pounds.

The decision to kill the bear trapped on Monday was made the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The grizzly was involved in multiple cattle killings. Plus, it was an older male bear not significant to the grizzly bear recovery.

"I think it was the appropriate action," says Mr. Sommers of the decision. The bear was a "serious depredator of cattle," that would likely return to this area if simply relocated. Further, the loss of a ten-year old male wouldn't impact the recovery effort. "All he was going to do was continue to cause problems."

"If it was a sow with cubs, then I'd scratch my head," continued Mr. Sommers. "But not a ten-year old male this far outside the recovery zone. Those bears need to be managed differently."

Mr. Sommers added that the economic losses suffered by the ranchers extends beyond the killed cattle. The bear "blew" cattle from the Association's spring pasture to its fall-use pasture, significantly disturbing the grazing management system. Association members and riders have spent five days rounding up and pushing cattle back to where they should be, but, he adds, they're still "pressing the fence."

Further, he's sure cows and calves have been separated, possibly resulting in orphaned calves which will bring significantly less from cattle buyers in the fall. Finally, said Mr. Sommers, "it's a cinch" the Association didn't find all the bear-killed cattle.

After the bear was trapped, it was taken to Lander while Game & Fish officials awaited permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to destroy it. When the word came, the bear was tranquilized and euthanized with a lethal, intravenous injection.

The bear bottomed out the scale at 500 lbs. with its head still resting on the ground.
The bear had some superficial wounds in the head and neck from a fight with another bear, however, Mark Brecino with the G&F in Lander says the wounds were not "debilitating." The necropsy of the bear revealed that it had a previously broken, but healed, femur which was three inches shorter than his other femur. Samples were taken to test for disease and parasites.

The bear's skull and other skeletal parts were sent to the archeological lab at the University of Wyoming. The hide is being tanned for education purposes.

Mr. Brecino described the bear as a "classic cattle killer - a prime age adult male." Grizzlies commonly reach an age of 20 years.

Mr. Sommers was very thankful to the Game & Fish and Wildlife Services officers. "The system worked," he said.

It was unfortunate that the bear had to be killed, said Mr. Almquist, "it was quite a magnificent animal."

Jennifer Binning contributed to this story.

Photo credits:  Doug McWhirter, Doug McWhirter, Doug McWhirter

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All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul