My Last Blog Post of the 2019 Range Rider Season

Forestry Permit Update

The forestry permits that I monitor within the Gallatin National Forest have continued to have high bear activity throughout August. One benefit of riding this area consistently is the ability to notice shifts in wildlife presence on the landscape. Last Friday, August 16th, it was a very cool and clear morning. The previous evening storms had rolled through that dumped over half an inch of rain in a very short period of time. Since it had been quite dusty before this storm, the rain allowed the trails to become a fresh canvas for new tracks. The trail camera did not have an SD card at the time and the tracks left behind were the only way I could gather what was going on in this particular permit area.

It was a loud morning in the permit. When riding to permit that day, I thought one of the livestock mangers must have been moving cattle because of the persistent calling of cows. Usually it is a fairly quiet ride up to the permit area and when I arrived at the gate, one older cow was present. After confirming with a livestock manager that no one was pushing cattle, I continued on my ride and saw no fresh cattle sign or presence. What I did see was plenty of bear tracks, all heading towards the permit gate area. The tracks I found included both black and grizzly bear as well as a grizzly bear cub.

Hard rainstorms are a bit of a treat because of the clean slate provided for new tracks

Hard rainstorms are a bit of a treat because of the clean slate provided for new tracks

On my ride back I couldn’t help but notice quite a large rock that had been moved from its location by a grizzly bear. Rather than rotate the rock over on its long end the bear was strong enough to stand the rock on its small side- this just shows the remarkable amount of strength grizzlies have.

Bears and Rocks:  My horse was quite confused how this rock had moved since we were at this exact location less than 24 hours before

Bears and Rocks: My horse was quite confused how this rock had moved since we were at this exact location less than 24 hours before

When I returned to the permit gate the older cow was still there, she was in the wrong permit area and was from another herd. When she was walking, I noticed lameness to her gait. I was not able to get in contact with the livestock manager due to poor phone reception and made the decision to bring the cow back to its home ranch where two other lame cows that never went to permit resided. As I pushed the cow home it was easy for me to see why she was alone- walking over logs was difficult for her as was climbing uphill. When I talked to the livestock managers that evening about the cattle locations from the raucous that morning I mentioned that despite the overwhelming number of bears traveling through that area, I did not believe the bears were out for blood and hunting the cattle because the lame cow I brought back to its home ranch was completely unharmed.

There were three total carcasses found over this summer. One was definitively a larkspur caused death, one carcass was too consumed to determine why the cow died and the third was recently found so no verdict yet. The last carcass found was drug through the fence from forestry permit onto private ranch-land by grizzly bears, the plural of bear used intentionally due to the variety of different hairs snagged in the barbed-wire fence.

The hooves behind the permit rides…

Marvin and I helping moving cow-calf pairs to permit earlier this summer

Marvin and I helping moving cow-calf pairs to permit earlier this summer

I do not own any of the three horses I used during the cattle monitoring period within the forestry grazing allotments. The bay quarter horse, “Marvin”, I have worked with the past couple years for another ranch. The Appaloosa, “Appie”, belongs to one of the livestock managers. The last of the three musketeers is a Haflinger named Kevin that is owned by a ranch manager near the Tom Miner Basin who I knew from working other horses he owned.  

Appie on the most southern extent of the permit area

Appie on the most southern extent of the permit area

These three fellas put in many long days and my summer would not have been the same without these 4 legged co-workers that had to be mountain horse and cowhorse. Marvin and Appie came into the job as cowhorses. Once I taught Kevin the basics of cattle-work in high country he also became quite keen for the opportunity to move cattle.

Kevin assisting with checking trail cameras

Kevin assisting with checking trail cameras

All three horses have returned to their homes and I just finished storing the last of the electric fencing equipment I used for setting up temporary fencing for them throughout the summer.

When the Range Rider isn’t Range Riding

You’ve been reading my blog posts all summer but now for a little more information about myself. I come from a mixed background- I am both a PhD student and a range rider. I worked for ranches within the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem long before I ever considered pursuing research here. All through my undergraduate career, as soon as exams would finish, I would head to the high country, packing horses, guiding, working cattle or bison until the last split second before I had to return to school for another semester. I conducted research in Ecuador on environmental degradation and health disparities for my undergraduate honors thesis with a particular focus on dengue fever and malaria. I planned on returning to Ecuador to conduct my PhD research until I was asked if I had considered doing research in the place I had guided for so many years: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

     During my first year of graduate school I was awarded the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSF GRFP). The NSF GRFP is an award to a future scientist based off of a research proposal and personal statement about how his or her background has prepared them for this path. My NSF GRFP research proposal focused on human-wildlife conflict and that although we think of Yellowstone as such a unique place, agricultural landscapes surrounding national parks and preserves is a human-wildlife conflict hotspot across the globe. In this proposal I noted that some of these agricultural spaces such as the ranchlands in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem provide an ecosystem service by maintaining open space and migration corridors that might otherwise be overtaken by residential development. It is important to recognize the gray space ranches occupy within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. I am not saying that ranches are the most environmentally friendly thing; however, it is the best shot wildlife have at survival, especially in the face of global climatic shifts and increasing residential development within the Greater Yellowstone.

     This is my sign off for the season, one of the two herds I have monitored we are currently bringing in from permit and the other herd will return to the home ranch by September 1st. I am back to graduate school and if you have any questions about my research my email of contact is Sabrina.bradford@colorado.edu

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

Rode Kevin back to his home ranch this morning. We left Tom Miner Basin while the stars were still out and the sunrise hit as we rode along the Yellowstone River- couldn’t have asked for a better final ride.

Rode Kevin back to his home ranch this morning. We left Tom Miner Basin while the stars were still out and the sunrise hit as we rode along the Yellowstone River- couldn’t have asked for a better final ride.

10 August 2019

On Tuesday, August 6th, I was checking cattle in an upper permit section that is accessible by logging road. At 7800ft, the mornings warm up a little slower than down below in the basin and around 9:40am I came around a corner and ran into a foraging grizzly bear. The bear had been eating mushrooms that were growing on the side of the road and he responded in a way that the majority of bears that I have encountered over the past decade react. He took off running as fast as he could down the logging road. Adolescent bears that are in their first year or two off their sow will sometimes be more curious but even they run. I hope that all that read this blog keep in mind that bears not being habituated to human presence protects both the bears and those of us that are in this country.

This grizzly took off as fast as he could when I rounded the corner and encountered him

This grizzly took off as fast as he could when I rounded the corner and encountered him

What do you see when you’re out range riding?

I start my rides in Tom Miner Basin which is around 5800ft and I ride up to 8000ft when in permit area. There are a few different ecosystems within the areas I ride which include marsh, closed forest, open forest, mountain meadows, riparian areas, lakes, and arid prickly pear cactus country. Lower in the basin I run into elk, white tailed deer, coyotes, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, badgers, gophers, black bears and the occasional ermine. As I ascend to higher country the animals I have seen include elk, coyote, wolf, snowshoe hares, black bears, grizzly bears, chipmunks, ermine, marmots, grouse, and great grey owls.

What do your trail cameras capture?

When I selected places for trail cameras I chose locations that I have commonly seen tracks throughout the grazing permit season that was near water sources and in areas where cattle directly overlapped. My favorite location is a well-used wildlife travel corridor. Due to the topography, the trail is one of the easiest routes of passage through a steep, rocky area so as a result funnels wildlife through it. My trail camera has captured animals I also have seen on the trail such as marmots, coyotes, bears, elk, and cattle but has also captured animals I have not seen such as foxes and skunks.

Fox that was startled by the trail camera

Fox that was startled by the trail camera

What can the trail camera and observations tell us?

The trail camera’s original position when it what discovered by the curious bear

The trail camera’s original position when it what discovered by the curious bear

The trail camera lets us know how many species might be using a certain area and when. It is clear that grizzly bears, black bears, and cattle are all using the same area. In addition, encounters such as stumbling into a great grey owl or running into a grey wolf lend more knowledge about how the ecosystems are being used on different levels. I may see plenty of bear tracks but I know the number of bears I see is lower than the number the tracks I find indicate. The trail camera also lets me know when wildlife may be simply passing through or if it is inhabiting an area. This knowledge is useful for cattle management in grazing allotments on forestry permits.

Several animals have reacted to the trail camera’s presence with curiosity, others oblivious, and the fox was the only animal that reacted with alarm. A bull elk, several cattle cows and two grizzly bears found the trail camera to be interesting and investigated it leaving photos of their noses and ears, mostly foggy photographs from them licking the lens.

The bear had a good time playing with the trail camera and ultimately redirected it to the ground

The bear had a good time playing with the trail camera and ultimately redirected it to the ground

When bears enter late hyperphagia, if there are cubs around, or if there is a carcass involved bears are more aggressive and that baseline fear of humans is important. Those three examples are the only times I have encountered bears that did not pack their bags and head out of town the second I ran into them. It does not bother me at all to work alone as a range rider because I have what I jokingly refer to as my four-legged coworkers. I have traveled into country that I have no problem going into solo with my horses but would feel highly uncomfortable hiking with only one other person into- horses make quite a lot of noise traveling through country and often detect the presence of larger wildlife long before we as people can. My horse picked up on the presence of the grizzly before he was visible and my horse was far more interested in the blooming thistles than the bear that was running from us as fast as he could.

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

As a result of early hyperphagia, bear activity is increasing within the forestry permit grazing areas

23 July 2019

On Monday, July 15th it was pretty quiet in the permit areas that I monitor. What I refer to sign in these posts is a reference to any sign of wildlife presence which can include feeding areas, tracks, or simply scat. I did not see too much sign from wildlife on the trails when riding that day and what I did see included one set of bear tracks in a small section in the high forest, wolf tracks and scat in another area, and coyote tracks in a dry, sage creek-bed area. When I rode on Thursday July 18th, there was quite a notable shift in bear activity.

This bear’s tracks went from south to north for over 3 miles on a game trail that is also used by cattle

This bear’s tracks went from south to north for over 3 miles on a game trail that is also used by cattle

The bears are starting early hyperphagia here and movement has increased as shown in the photographs below. All of these tracks were northbound and not a single aimed south. A benefit of riding this country so often is that it was easy for me to know that all of this activity had occurred within the last couple days so many rocks had been overturned, fallen dead trees ripped open, and sections of the meadow looking tilled from plant roots dug along the route.  

My horse was a bit curious because this dead tree was in one piece the day before.  Grizzly bears have an excellent sense of smell and can smell a carcass from 9 miles away or the presence of insects within a dead tree. A bloodhound dog’s sense of smell is 300 times better than a human’s and a bear’s sense of smell is 7 times better than a bloodhound’s (Stevenson 2007)

My horse was a bit curious because this dead tree was in one piece the day before.

Grizzly bears have an excellent sense of smell and can smell a carcass from 9 miles away or the presence of insects within a dead tree. A bloodhound dog’s sense of smell is 300 times better than a human’s and a bear’s sense of smell is 7 times better than a bloodhound’s (Stevenson 2007)

Grizzly Bear Claws: Average length 2 inches (5.1cm); Longest 5.6 inches (14.2cm). Claws are used often by grizzly bears for digging food from the ground but are not as efficient as black bear claws for tree climbing (Gunther, Haroldson, van Manen, 2017)

Grizzly Bear Claws: Average length 2 inches (5.1cm); Longest 5.6 inches (14.2cm). Claws are used often by grizzly bears for digging food from the ground but are not as efficient as black bear claws for tree climbing (Gunther, Haroldson, van Manen, 2017)

It is pretty easy to see when bears have overturned rocks . Usually the rocks are around this size but there was one large rock that was closer to a boulder in size that I saw that day. The large rock had a bit of a funny story to it with bear track leading to it, the large rock budged about an inch by the bear, and then I guess efforts to overturn the rock were abandoned.

It is pretty easy to see when bears have overturned rocks . Usually the rocks are around this size but there was one large rock that was closer to a boulder in size that I saw that day. The large rock had a bit of a funny story to it with bear track leading to it, the large rock budged about an inch by the bear, and then I guess efforts to overturn the rock were abandoned.

Grizzly bear behavior, habitat and depredation on forestry grazing allotments (Wells, McNew, Tyers, van Manen, & Thompson, 2019):

  • Mid- to high-elevation areas with steeper slopes and rugged terrain are the habitat spaces most often used by grizzly bears in the Rocky Mountain region.

  • Grizzly bears avoid areas of high human use which includes roads and trails

  • Habitat spaces most often selected by grizzly bears include areas of higher forest productivity and low human disturbance

  • Although grizzly bears and cattle may be sympatric (in the same habitat space) throughout the grazing season depredations occur primarily in July and August when grizzly bears are in early hyperphagia. The grazing season referenced is the forestry permit allotment time which is generally early June to September or October in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

  • Regardless of cone productivity, grizzly bears will choose habitat space with whitebark pine present from the 15 August to 30 of September (Costello et al. 2014). Although this pattern has been observed, there is not a relationship between depredation numbers and cone production.

Human Presence on the Landscape

Human presence on the landscape does impact grizzly bear habitat usage. The human presence on the landscape in the allotments the Tom Miner Range Rider monitors is not limited to a sole range rider. When I rode with a livestock manager for doctoring some cows with hoof rot a week ago, we departed from the Sphinx Creek trail-head to be able to get to the cows that needed doctoring more quickly. The trail-head was quiet that morning but by the time we returned that afternoon we encountered one hiking couple with two dogs on the trail and two other vehicles pulled up to the trail-head as we were loading horses into the trailer. The trail is not one that is frequently used throughout the grazing season but even weekend hikers contribute to the human presence on the landscape.

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

References

Gunther, K. A., Haroldson, M., & van Manen, F. T. (2017). Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Facts. In P.J. White, K. A. Gunther, & F. T. van Manen (Eds.), Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: Ecology and Conservation of an Icon of Wildness (pp. 169-176). Yellowstone Forever.

Wells, S., McNew, L., Tyers, D. B., van Manen, F. T., & Thompson, D. J. (2019). Grizzly Bear Depredation on Grazing Allotments in the Yellowstone Ecosystem:. The Journal of Wildlife Management, 83(3), 556-566.

 

19 July 2019

First USFS Permit Carcass of 2019

The summer heat arrived slowly this year and it has been raining quite a bit in our part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The grass is high, cattle are in forestry permits, and it’s a busy time to be a range rider. As noted in the last post, the highest number of bear mortalities related to livestock depredation occurs during the bear’s early hyperphagia period which is late July through the end of August. This is a highly efficient ecosystem and it would only take a couple days for a carcass to lose all signs indicating depredation. One of my jobs as the Tom Miner Basin Association (TMBA) range rider is to locate carcasses and notify livestock owners and managers as well as the TMBA. This ecosystem is highly efficient in disposing of remains and if not found early, it is difficult to determine the true cause of death. 

On Monday, July 8th, I was in the high country of the forestry permit on my way to check on a herd that had recently been moved to permit and was in the most remote permit location I monitor. It was early morning and past a salt lick area where the trail narrows quite a bit, two ravens disturbed by my arrival, took flight 50m ahead of me on the cattle trail I was using. It was too distant to see what they were departing from but bird sign is an indicator of carcass presence.  It soon became easy to see a cow carcass in the middle of the trail. After making enough noise to cause a general disturbance in the area, I investigated the carcass itself to take photographs and then surveyed the surrounding scene to make observations that would be helpful for the livestock owners and managers to determine if it required Jim Rost. Jim Rost is a wildlife specialist that works for USDA Wildlife Services and among other things evaluates carcasses for evidence of depredation. Without a confirmation from a federally employed wildlife specialist a rancher would be unable to collect compensation for losses from the Livestock Loss Board of Montana (http://liv.mt.gov/Attached-Agency-Boards/Livestock-Loss-Board).

The cow was incredibly bloated and demonstrated rigor mortis (postmortem rigidity) but there was no stench. The cow’s face was stripped of hide with fresh blood from below the eye to mouth and also under the jaw. An investigation of the scene indicated the cow had been drug to its current location from up the hill. I was able to note this due to obvious drag marks and also a path thick with carrion (blow) flies

Important factors to note for livestock owners/managers: location, cattle tag number, signs of trauma and state of surrounding scene. I used my OnX app to mark the location of the carcass so I could relay the UTM coordinates.

Important factors to note for livestock owners/managers: location, cattle tag number, signs of trauma and state of surrounding scene. I used my OnX app to mark the location of the carcass so I could relay the UTM coordinates.

Was it depredation?

From what I was able to survey, I did not believe I was looking at a depredation event. The cow's body indicated it had been dead far longer than the face had been stripped of flesh. My best guess was that this cow died of larkspur poisoning and its presence on the trail was the result of an opportunistic find by a bear. As range rider, I am not able to diagnose the cause of death and only gather enough information to  and as stated by the owner of the cow, “take as many photos as you can of the carcass from different angles, trauma, signs from the scene it has been moved by predators-more is always better.”

What about the carcass?

The carcass was in an awkward place. I was coming from the north heading south and the carcass lay where the east side was a downward sloping forested area towards a cliff area that was thick with secondary growth, obscuring visibility. On the west side of the trail it was an incredibly steep slope with soft ground and deadfall. The cow’s presence in the middle of the trail was awkward because of there not being a safe way around the carcass on either side. To reach the most distant cattle, I head to permit right before dawn which would place me riding through the carcass zone when bears would most likely be feeding on the carcass. Others that knew the permit area better than I recommended possible paths that would still put me fairly close to the carcass and as a result, several days passed before I was able to ride through that trail.

In years with good vegetation levels cattle often do not eat pre-flowering tall larkspur which is when it is most toxic. In years like 2019 with plenty of grass, consumption hits a high during the late flower or pod stage. Although tall larkspur is less toxic at this point, consumption is higher resulting in the same high levels of toxic alkaloids in the cow’s system. The the amount consumed for death varies from year to year and more information about this phenomena will be in the next post).

In years with good vegetation levels cattle often do not eat pre-flowering tall larkspur which is when it is most toxic. In years like 2019 with plenty of grass, consumption hits a high during the late flower or pod stage. Although tall larkspur is less toxic at this point, consumption is higher resulting in the same high levels of toxic alkaloids in the cow’s system. The the amount consumed for death varies from year to year and more information about this phenomena will be in the next post).

On Friday of that same week, the livestock manager of the herd that owned the dead cow asked if I wanted to join to check on the status of the carcass. We rode to the carcass at the hottest part of the day when bears were more likely to be bedded down. Strangely enough, even though the cow had been moved about 75m east of the trail by predators, the cow was not completely consumed. The brisket and udders are two areas that bears tend to consume first yet were present that day. The gut and hindquarters of the cow had been fed on which suggests wolf and/or coyote (Clucas, 2005). Of course, there may have been a bear feeding during this time but without a trail camera on the carcass, it is difficult to determine how many species fed on this cow.  

Notes on finding:

When I was evaluating the carcass on July 8th, a pair (cow/calf), bull and an extra calf showed up to the carcass site. The extra calf without a cow had matching eartags to the dead cow and I was able to move all four to the nearest herd after I finished with the scene.

It was determined that the cause of death of the cow was larkspur. I will soon post more information about native plants that may poison cattle such as larkspur in addition to details on noxious invasive plants on forestry allotments.

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

 References

Clucas, J.L. (2005) A Field Guide To Predatory Animal Damage Identification. Hawk Haven Media.



26 June 2019

The elk calves that were present a month ago have all but disappeared from the lower basin. It is difficult to know whether the calves were killed or the cow elk-calf pairs moved to a different location. There are still herds of cow elk that range in size from 10 to over 25 in the lower basin, just no calves. 

Wildlife throughout the basin has been more evident as summer arrives and riding the USFS grazing permit area before the cattle arrived allowed me to observe animal sign before cattle made trails more difficult to read tracks. 

Trails used by cattle are also used by wildlife

Trails used by cattle are also used by wildlife

Tracking

One of the best tools I have for recording the location of tracks is a program used my many hunters called OnX. OnX is an affordable and fantastic smartphone app that transforms a smartphone into a functional tool for range riding work. OnX is the top GPS hunting app and for good reason. This tool provides information for 121 million private properties, 985 million acres of public land, 421 map overlays and over 400,000 miles of trails. These layers allow one to identify not just private property lines but also different forestry sections on a topographical, satellite, or combination hybrid map.  OnX allows maps to be saved so that cellular service is not necessary to use the program.

OnX can track the location of the app user and you can mark locations and setup way points. For example, I came across this black bear print: 

Black bear track

Black bear track

I then used OnX to mark the location so that I can start to understand the basic patterns of where sign of bears and wolves are commonly found. As a result, I was able to see that wolves leave tracks to and from the stock tank from both directions while a small black bear only accessed it from one direction. Here is an example of plotting a point for a bear track using OnX:

OnXexamplebeartrack.jpeg


Using tools such as OnX to record wildlife movement can help us to have a better idea which areas are in-use habitat spaces for grizzlies and wolves. Since these in-use areas will shift due to the spatiotemporal availability of food resources, this information will be useful for informing land and livestock managers that wish to avoid high amounts of livestock-predator cross habitat spillover. 

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

It is clear that bear and wolf used these trails before cattle were moved to permit. Cattle also use these trails to access water and pocket meadows.

It is clear that bear and wolf used these trails before cattle were moved to permit. Cattle also use these trails to access water and pocket meadows.

12 June 2019

Continuing Education & Branding 

During the first week of June in addition to livestock monitoring, I attended a soil science workshop by Nicole Masters and a small, speaking event called “The Future West”. It is important to recognize that the scalar difference between these two events aides in representing the scope and scale of what may be tackled when devising ranch management strategies that result in what I refer to as “resilient ranchlands.” The soil science workshop occurred at Barney Creek Livestock which is just south of Livingston. Nicole talked about the ability of ranchlands to have an active role in carbon sequestration, the use of soil science to tackle cheatgrass and erosion, and the ability of ranches to have more successful grazing pastures as a result of a fungi/bacteria balance in the soil. The Future West conference, by contrast, focused on sustaining larger ecosystems in the west and included speakers that have observed and tackled human-wildlife interactions from a variety of perspectives including the mayor of Canmore (Canada), an ethnographer from the Nez Perce nation, a scientist from Yellowstone to Yukon, and a rancher from the Blackfoot Challenge. 

Livestock

At the end of this upcoming week cattle will be moved to forestry permits from the lower pastures. Last week was a combination of warm summer days…and the return of winter one morning with 6 inches of snow on the ground. Elk calves are now in the same meadows as the cattle, herds with direct habitat overlap space are more closely observed due to elk calves serving as one of the primary food items during springtime. Earlier this spring, I wrote a research paper on bear mortalities within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem using records from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST). I believe that one function range riders may serve is working with what we know about behavioral ecology of nutrition, diet and food acquisition habits of species such as grizzly bears to reduce depredation events.

Grizzly bears have a high spatiotemporal variation of diet. The grizzly bear’s “seasons” can be defined by the availability, or concentration, of specific food sources. In a study conducted by Gunther, et al. (2004), the grizzly bear’s seasons were characterized by the following diet and behavioral attributes:

Gunther, et al. (2004)

Gunther, et al. (2004)


I believe this information is important because over 80% of the grizzly bear mortalities within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem over the last ten years have occurred related to human-wildlife conflict. Though bear mortality numbers were not as high as elk hunting season related and anthropogenic food/residential access, livestock depredation events did contribute to management removal decisions. The below graph is a result of some of the work I have done and contrary to the two highest contributors to bear mortality, livestock depredation related bear mortalities were not highest during late hyperphagia. Since I am able to view these data results through the perspective of not only a scientist but also as someone that has spent many years working for ranches throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the temporal pattern of bear mortalities related to livestock depredation were not surprising. In the springtime, cattle calves and elk calves have spatial overlap at times and during early hyperphagia, cattle are often in higher elevation pastures, chasing the green wave and the furthest out they may graze from the home ranch before gather occurs for fall works.

Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team’s records of bear mortalities within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem showed this pattern when I sorted the depredation-related mortality records by bear season.

Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team’s records of bear mortalities within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem showed this pattern when I sorted the depredation-related mortality records by bear season.

While range riders survey for evidence of livestock depredation from bears or wolves, monitoring a herd’s overall health is equally important. Factors such as a thinly spread herd across a large area of landscape, a calves weak from scours or cows battling hoof rot all influence the vulnerability of a herd to depredation events. I recognize that some supporters of range riding efforts may have never attended a branding and may not know what occurs at one besides the branding itself but it is also a time for vaccinations and doctoring problems such as abscesses, new scours that may have appeared since the last check on the herd. Have any range-riding related questions? Feel free to send them in at TomMinerRangeRider@gmail.com.

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

Getting ready to gather pairs before branding (Photographer: Hilary Zaranek-Anderson)

Getting ready to gather pairs before branding (Photographer: Hilary Zaranek-Anderson)



15-24 May 2019

The running joke about Montana weather is “if you don’t like it…wait 15 minutes.” As the 2019 range rider season for the Tom Miner Basin starts there have been plenty of windy, snowy and wet days with the occasional ray of sunshine breaking through. Work has varied between community, cattle and horses.

I have met with livestock managers and landowners within Tom Miner Basin which allows them to put a face with the 2019 range rider. The meeting also allows those using a range rider to express their needs, concerns, and past observations of the relationship between livestock depredation and the land. In addition to these meetings, the community has also been engaged during my work this past week. A group of college students came to the Anderson Ranch on May 16 to learn more about range riding and range stewards. These students were able to ask Malou questions about the program and also asked me about my path to range riding. The afternoon of May 16, fladry was taken down and a team of four others assisted me with collecting the fiberglass poles, rolling up fladry, and storing the fladry appropriately. The three volunteers were from a variety of backgrounds including a Masters student from the Netherlands, a couple from Portland, Oregon that have spent many years hiking the Yellowstone backcountry, and a family member that has chosen to spend the summer working for the Anderson Ranch. One of the fladry rolls belonged to the NRDC and I was able to meet involved NRDC representatives when returning the roll to their office in Bozeman. Lastly, we posted “No Smoking” signs along private property boundaries of Tom Miner Road in hopes of discouraging bear-watching tourists from lighting up in areas that are a high fire risk. These signs are especially important because the areas that these tourists park are especially vulnerable to fire in August and September which is also when road tourist visitation is at its highest.

I checked the cow-calf pairs out to pasture multiple times over the past week as the weather provided coverage for predators. In addition to grouping the herd closer together the health status of the cows and calves was checked and the livestock manager contacted when sick animals were observed.

IMG_0003.JPG

An important portion of checking cow-calf pairs is having good cow horses. Work has been done every day in order to prepare the horses physically and mentally for early mornings and long days. There is nothing like working horses in cold, wet, and windy weather to break them out of their winter vacations.

-Sabrina Bradford, Tom Miner Range Rider

Roundpen work

Roundpen work