JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — It hasn't taken long for grizzly bears and wolves to start taking a toll on livestock this summer in the Upper Green River drainage in western Wyoming, livestock producers say. "We probably started going into our pasture system (with cattle) about the 20th of June," said Albert Sommers, a rancher who heads the Green River Valley Cattlemen's Association and is representative for Wyoming's House District 20.
A neighbor who grazes cattle along the Green River bottom had a "bear kill and a wolf kill before we even got there," Sommers said. "And I think between then and now — this is a guess — there's been about six to eight bear kills and two wolf kills on us," he told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
The 323-square-mile public lands rangeland complex in the Upper Green, located about 40 miles east of Jackson, is the largest grazing allotment in the U.S. Forest Service system. In places it spans the entire Bridger-Teton National Forest from north to south.
The region is also the most concentrated portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for grizzly bear conflict. The allotments are the site of about 40 bear-livestock conflicts a year, according to Forest Service documents.
When they kill livestock, bears are typically relocated from the Upper Green or, if they've got a bad record, sometimes removed from the population.
Ten grizzly bears have been killed by wildlife managers since 2012 for depredations in the rangeland.
A limit set by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows for no more than 11 grizzly bears to be killed over any three-year period. Last year the limit was reset by Fish and Wildlife, which is managing grizzly bears while they're being protected by the Endangered Species Act.
The latest grizzly mortality in the Upper Green occurred June 26, when an adult male with a history of cattle depredation was killed, according to Dan Thompson, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's large carnivore supervisor.
Game and Fish relocated a young grizzly from the Upper Green the next day, according to the state agency. The bear was relocated to an area about 5 miles east of Yellowstone National Park in the North Fork of the Shoshone River drainage.
The removal and relocation didn't bring depredations on the rangeland to a halt. "There's been kills since then," Sommers said. "They've got another bear that they collared a year ago and they found his radio signal in close proximity to a kill, so they're pretty sure he's killing," he said.
Another suspected wolf-kill was detected recently on Pinon Ridge, Sommers said. Calves have accounted for the majority of the livestock depredations tallied by the Green River Valley Cattlemen's Association this year, Sommers said. One or two yearling cattle have also been killed, he said.
Bridger-Teton National Forest permits allow more than 7,000 sheep and 15,000 cattle to graze public land in the Upper Green. An environmental planning document from the Forest Service that could allow grazing in the area to continue for years to come may soon be released to the public.
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, http://www.jhnewsandguide.com