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Ranching group in Madison Valley 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 7:28 PM, Jun 19, 2024

ENNIS — For over a decade, Madison Valley Ranchlands Group (MVRG) 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 20-30 animals that are taken. But we don’t always know that it’s bear or wolves, or a combination of both," Says Linda Owens, project director with MVRG.

Madison Valley Ranchlands Group started as seven families coming together to support ranchers in the Madison Valley.

In the 90s, it was with the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. But as grizzly bears repopulate, John Crumley, President of MVRG, says their fight has changed.

"The grizzly bear problem has changed the wolf problem. At this point we can live with the wolves, but grizzly bears are a little harder," he says.

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

Linda says, "We have known that there are grizzlies in the Tobacco Roots, south Tobacco Roots and the north, but there wasn’t confirmed sightings."

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.

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".

This is what Burnett calls "landscape connectivity," which allows wildlife to exist on public land while supporting landowners' 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.