Being a rancher in Montana is a difficult job, with challenges ranging from sub-zero weather to dangerous predators, but one rancher in Bynum has a new tool to protect his livestock.
“They’re all about their sheep and their job,” said Steve Skelton.
Among the sheep at his ranch, you’ll see several dogs, but they’re not there for play.
“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.
The Skeltons will be holding a meeting on April 10 in Choteau about their guard dogs for any rancher that may be interested.