In his 63 years ranging cattle at Pine Butte Ranch in Wycliffe, Ray Van Steinburg has never had grizzly bears take down a cow.
That is, until earlier this month, when he and other ranch workers found the carcasses of two cows about 100 feet apart on the 15,000 hectare property. The cows weigh about 1,400 pounds each.
They set up a motion-detected camera at the site of one of the kills and caught amazing footage of not one but two grizzlies approaching the kill, feeding on it, and even wrestling with each other.
Van Steinburg said that while his 800 head of cattle are ranging, he doesn’t know how many cows the grizzlies have taken. But he has observed cows who no longer have calves, and calves who no longer have mothers.
Pine Butte Ranch is part of an agreement with the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Van Steinburg, who purchased the property when he returned from World War 2, is a wildlife and conservation enthusiast. Pine Butte is grazed so that native grassland can prosper on the ranch.
In his time on Pine Butte, Van Steinburg has seen the wildlife population grow from zero to what it is today. Last fall, Van Steinburg said there were around 3,700 elk on the property.
But since the grizzly kills, there have been no elk at Pine Butte Ranch, which he thinks is because they have been scared away.
“We need to be doing something about it,” said Van Steinburg. “But just what the answer is, nobody seems to know.”
Earlier this month, two grizzlies spent a week in Kimberley, eating from fruit trees. Conservation officers were forced to euthanize one, and relocated the other up the St. Mary Valley.
Last week, a grizzly bear killed an elk on Kimberley’s Lois Creek Trails.