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Montana ranching group working to reduce conflicts between grizzly bears and livestock

Over five years, the funds will help agricultural producers adopt and expand non-lethal conflict prevention programs across the state.
Posted at 7:37 AM, Jun 20, 2024

ENNIS — For over a decade, Madison Valley Ranchlands Group has been working to decrease conflict between wildlife and livestock. And in part, thanks to their early successes, new investments are being made to address the problem.

"Most years, we believe we’re around 20 to 30 animals that are taken. But we don’t always know that it’s bear or wolves, or a combination," said Linda Owens, project director with MVRG.

The group started as seven families coming together to support ranchers in the Madison Valley.

In the 1990s, it was with the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. But as grizzly bears repopulate, the group's president, John Crumley, says their fight has changed.

"The grizzly bear problem has changed the wolf problem. We can live with the wolves, but it's a little harder to live with the grizzly bears," he said.

John Crumley, President of Madison Valley Ranchlands Group

As the population expands pushing grizzly bears further north, the group says investments in conflict prevention are more important than ever.

"We have known that there are grizzlies in the Tobacco Roots, south Tobacco Roots, and the north Tabacco Roots, but there wasn’t a confirmed sighting," Owens said.

But for the first time last month, an adult grizzly bear appeared on a North Meadow Creek trail cam, confirming the need for more management resources.

An adult grizzly bear appeared on a North Meadow Creek trail cam.

MVRG is part of a larger landowner-led conflict reduction partnership called Heart of the Rockies Initiative. In coordination with EcoFlights, I was able to view some of the management tools from the sky.

Decomposition sites help to contain attractants and electric pads or fencing deter grizzlies from the land.

But Burnett says the key to it all is partnership.

"The local action, the Madison, if it can connect to the local action of the Ruby, and the local action of Centennial, you create a larger permeable landscape that bears need," he said.

This is what Burnett calls "landscape connectivity," which allows wildlife to exist on public land while supporting landowner efforts to prevent conflict on their land.

And thanks to a $12 million combined investment groups hope to invest in more conflict reduction, including range riding programs.

For more information on these investments and wildlife conflict prevention visit: The Heart of the Rockies Initiative Madison Valley Ranchlands Group.