Guest Blog by Trina Jo Bradley, Rancher on Dupuyer Creek
Having grown up on a ranch on Dupuyer Creek, grizzly bears have always been a part of my life. As kids, my siblings and I were not allowed to leave the yard without our dog and at least two of us together, and even then we couldn’t be out of shouting distance in case we ran into a bear.
We always traveled as a pack – no one was ever alone because it just wasn’t safe. I remember several times we had to quit picking chokecherries in a hurry because a bear was suddenly competing with us for the same bush, or a fishing excursion would get cut short because of what we heard on the other side of the creek.
My mom always grew a huge garden, and it would get raided weekly by bears, but they’d leave in a hurry when the lights came on and the guns and dog came out. Grizzlies used to be more afraid back then.
Now I’m grown up, and I have a daughter and a ranch of my own to protect on Birch Creek. And boy, do we have more than our share of bears.
When my father-in-law purchased our ranch in 1956, seeing a grizzly was rare anywhere on the creek. Now, going one day WITHOUT seeing a grizzly is a treat.
My daughter’s childhood play is being stolen from her by grizzlies. As an adventurous ranch girl, she should be able to explore the creek, make forts in the buffalo berry bushes, ride her horse anywhere, etc., but she can’t. It’s just not safe.
Her entire life, she’s had to play outside only when supervised, and absolutely not after 6 p.m. We can’t go for walks because the bears are roaming around at all hours of the day and night. She can’t even walk over to the corral to see her horse without always having the possibility of a run-in.
I took my daughter for a walk one day so she could ride her bike – midday is usually napping time for bears. We took the dog, of course, and as we were walking the dog started growling and we headed back to the house in a hurry. Next morning, there was a huge pile of scat in the road right where the dog had warned us the afternoon before.
We tried to have a garden, but after my daughter and I ran straight into a grizzly on our way to move the sprinkler one evening, we scrapped that. Now we grow a few vegetables in the flower boxes next to the house and call it good.
My daughter has had nightmares since she was two years old – always the same subject: grizzlies. She has slept with a board over her bedroom window since she was three because she is so afraid the bears are going to come in and get her. She’s almost nine now, and she’s still terrified.
Earlier this summer, while playing a board game after dinner, we were alerted by our dog to two bears in the yard – one by our picnic table, one by my daughter’s swingset. They weren’t scared of the dog, or of us. It was 6:30 p.m. We could have easily been outside playing like a normal family, but instead we’re sentenced to a life imprisoned inside our house in the summer just to avoid confrontations with grizzlies.
I am not telling you all of this to scare you. I’m telling you this because it’s real – grizzlies are at the top of the food chain, and in order to survive where they live, we have to make sacrifices. It’s not fair, especially to my daughter, but its life. It’s time to take this problem seriously. The bears are moving out on the prairie, and they are well conditioned to life with humans and they’re not afraid.
Trina Jo Bradley
Dupuyer, MT 59432