Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Landowners Convene to Explore Solutions to Grizzly Bear-Livestock Conflicts

by Andy Schwab

Choteau, MT – Due to successful recovery efforts, grizzly bears are expanding their range into the plains and private lands of Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front; lands that support food, fiber, and abounding life, both human and wild.

Recently, the Rocky Mountain Front (RMF) Ranchlands Group has formed to address shared challenges to the landscape, the most pressing of which is increasing conflicts between grizzly bears and livestock in the private and public lands of the region. The budding collaborative is a landowner-led effort that strives to support, maintain, and protect the livelihoods of those that ranch and farm on the Front, while seeking solutions to maintain space for the region’s wildlife.

“We need a collective voice to address issues on the landscape,” Trina Jo Bradley, livestock producer, co-founder and executive director of the RMF Ranchlands Group, said. “So many people in the world are too far removed from agriculture, and they need to be reminded of its importance. One of the goals of this group is to share our stories, struggles, and triumphs with the world so they have a better understanding of what life in the west is really like.”

In other landscapes, such as Montana’s Big Hole and Blackfoot Valleys, livestock producer-led groups have helped to secure funding and coordinate efforts among landowners, wildlife management agencies, and nonprofits to address shared challenges, be it weeds, water, or wildlife conflicts. Moving forward, the RMF Ranchlands Group’s first order of business is to connect landowners with resources and knowledge necessary to protect livestock and humans from grizzly bears.

To kick off their advocacy efforts, the RMF Ranchlands Group is collaborating with the Western Landowners Alliance (WLA) to convene landowners and managers for a workshop at the Choteau Pavilion and Community Center Monday, December 6th from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. to explore the diverse applications for using dogs to protect livestock and human safety on the Front.

“Dogs are a versatile tool for reducing conflicts in multiple rangeland settings: from the yard, to the pasture, to the open range,” said Mathew Collins, WLA’s Working Wild Challenge associate. “Yet, choosing the correct breed to fit your specific context and needs can be challenging.”

In order to highlight the diversity of uses for dogs to reduce conflict with wildlife, presentations and informal table conversations will offer opportunities for landowners to get to know multiple dog breeds and their owners and handlers. Sessions will highlight the experiences of five speakers that use guard and pursuit dogs (Airedale Terriers, Karelian Bear Dogs), directed dogs (Catahoulas), and livestock guardian dogs (Turkish Boz, Turkish Kengal, Komondor, Akbash, Anatolian Shepherd) to reduce conflicts with grizzly bears and wolves on working lands.

“Producers all over the west have a bigger reach and a bigger voice if they work together,” said Bradley. “In planning this meeting, we are hoping to address the needs of livestock producers on the Front, while setting the stage for more conversations and actions to come, which will benefit producers everywhere.”


WLA/RMF Ranchlands – 2021

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