Grizzly bears caught after sheep depredation near Bynum (video)

Posted at 10:50 AM, Aug 08, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-08 12:50:24-04

A rancher in Bynum posted video to Facebook on Wednesday showing four grizzly bears; two of them were caught in traps, and two others were nearby.

The Skeltons said on their "Blackleaf Guardians" Facebook page: 

Bear-y busy morning! #WillowKangal is busy with the bears!
We had a government trapper come out and set a trap on a sheep that was killed by a grizzly yesterday. He set 2. Well… this morning there was two caught bears and 2 hanging around!
The #GoldenGirls and #WillowKangal tagged into the bears while the rest stayed with their flock. Great teamwork, Girls!

Billie Skelton told KRTV that it appears the two trapped bears are a male and a female, and the other two are "older" cubs.

Billie said that snare traps were used, and they do not injure or hurt the trapped grizzlies.

She said  the ewe that was killed on Tuesday appeared to have bite marks on its skull consistent with being attacked by a grizzly cub.

Billie said that her ranch has lost seven sheep to grizzly depradation this season, and that FWP credits the Skelton dogs for keeping that number so low. Without the dogs, Billie said, they likely would have lost dozens of sheep to the grizzly bears.

Billie posted the following comment on the video post: "All the bears were trapped and handled humanely! MT FWP trapped the bears with a slip around the paw and then were here asap to tranquilize and care for the bears."

The Skeltons said that the male grizzly will be released on the other side of the Continental Divide. The female has cubs around, so she will be released near the ranch away from the sheep, once she is collared and tattooed. Then she can find her cubs and be monitored through her collar.

We have left messages with FWP to get more information, but have not yet heard back.

When we visited the Skeltons several months ago, Steve Skelton talked about his guardian dogs: “They’re all about their sheep and their job.”

“Their idea is not to kill, maim, or rip up predators, their idea is to make it hard for a predator to want a meal out of my sheep,” said Skelton. “The bear is just going to walk on and say this is too hard of a meal to buy, I’m going to go somewhere else.”

Skelton said livestock guardian dogs are their only protection when it comes to living right off the Rocky Mountain Front. “We have no alternatives, I can’t come out here with a can of bear spray and make grizzly bears go away from my flock,” said Skelton.

But the dogs don’t mind it—they were bred for this work and the cold weather. “One day we had to understand that these dogs, a lot of the pedigrees on them are over a thousand years old and it’s just what they do. They come in for their loves, they like it, but normally when you come out to see the sheep, they don’t even pay attention to you. They’re all about their sheep and their job,” said Skelton.

They also have an extra layer of protection. “We have to put spike collars on them so they are protected; if they take a bite from a wolf or a bear, they always go for the neck and it can kill them,” said Skelton. “This way it’s their armor, its body armor for them.”

While he says they’re still learning, they plan to help other ranchers out.

“We are going to raise these dogs and try to pass them on to other ranchers and people that need them,” said Skelton.

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