GYC helps build fence to keep bears alive in Idaho

This article first appeared in the June 29th edition of the Island Park News (Island Park, ID).

ISLAND PARK -- Earlier this summer the Idaho Department of Fish and Game teamed up with The Nature Conservancy, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and the Duck Creek ranch in Island Park, Idaho to come up with a solution to the Duck Creek ranch cattle/grizzly bear conflicts. Once the logistics were worked out Carl the owner had this to say: "I didn't realize there were groups out there like The Nature Conservancy, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and Idaho Fish and Game that could help. This fencing project...is a huge help to me and my leasee. I'm able to keep my property in ranching and reduce conflicts with grizzlies. It's a huge help."

Curtis Hendricks (left) with other Idaho Department of Fish and Game employees clear willows on the Duck Creek Ranch. (Photo GYC.) 

Curtis Hendricks (left) with other Idaho Department of Fish and Game employees clear willows on the Duck Creek Ranch. (Photo GYC.) 

The three organizations and the ranch came together to provide a long-term solution that would need little maintenance. They decided on a jack fence, a low-maintenance solution that would minimize damage to the habitat and also allow wildlife to pass through the area while keeping cattle out. The fence runs approximately 4100 feet, to keep the cows out of muddy bog holes that cows would get stuck in and start bellowing. By bellowing, the cows essentially broadcast that they are in distress and not moving around, making them an easy target for the grizzly bears in the area. By blocking the cow from the bogs, we reduce the chance of grizzlies becoming conditioned to domestic cows. While grizzly bears are being looked at for possible delisting, every bear in the ecosystem counts, not to mention a higher retention of the Duck Creek livestock and livelihood.

The Idaho Fish and Game crew walk the newly installed jack fence, which will help keep cows from getting stuck in the Duck Creek bogs and becoming an easy meal for grizzlies. (Photo GYC.)

The Idaho Fish and Game crew walk the newly installed jack fence, which will help keep cows from getting stuck in the Duck Creek bogs and becoming an easy meal for grizzlies. (Photo GYC.)

While the main focus of making the fence was to minimize the cattle depredations, there are a couple of benefits by installing the fence. For instance, the Duck Creek stream is a known natural cutthroat trout spawning area. That feeds into Henry's Lake, with the Yellowstone cutthroat trout being a fragile species it is good to preserve and protect the tributaries where they can continue to thrive and reproduce.

In conclusion, the jack fence project in the Duck Creek ranch is a step in furthering the return of the grizzly bear, protecting the native Yellowstone cutthroat trout spawning areas helping the population, and making the area a safer place to raise livestock.