Thursday, September 24, 2009

The ongoing saga

Things are really busy on the ranch, with this being the time of year we should be finished with haying, and starting our fall sorting and shipping. The predation issues we've been dealing with have taken far too much time and effort, really screwing up our haying schedule, with the result being the rather difficult decision to leave one meadow as standing forage rather than harvesting. Less nutrition, but bigger fires to put out.

Last Sunday, we moved the sheep herd back into a pasture downriver (our lambing ground), taking them away from the pasture with predation problems and getting us set to begin sorting and shipping on Monday. The sheep trailed easily, with burros and dogs. Right after Jim got the herd settled into the meadow, he walked down to the river’s edge and found bear shit. Oh shit.

Monday morning, I headed into the pasture to start the day by feeding the dogs. I found the dead ewe before I found the dogs and the rest of the herd. Our federal trapper arrived in two quick hours, confirming the ewe had been killed by a bear. Because he’s a federal guy, and bears are trophy game animals under state law, he had to call the state bear guys to see what they wanted to do. They authorized our trapper to try to trap and kill it. He decided he wanted to set leg snares, using the ewe carcass. We agreed to move the sheep out of the pasture, which we had completed before Rod got back with all his bear supplies. But in agreeing to move the sheep, which would eliminate a food source for the bear, that meant we had to tear down and move our shipping pen and chute. Jim and I spent the rest of the day doing that, and installing the setup in a pen out near the highway.

Since we lost of full day of work to these items, we never started shipping until Tuesday. We did stick around to watch Rod set the snares, which I’ve never seen done before. It’s part art, part science, part gut feeling. Our trapper is betting this is an older bear, and we don’t actually hold much hope he’ll be able to get the bear. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department will only allow three nights of trapping or snaring before he has to stop. The feeding pattern of this bear so far indicates that’s simply not enough time. It’s usually a week between kills. Sad that we know what is usual for a bear depredation.

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