Grizzly bear rampages at Red Lodge ranch

A relocated Wyoming grizzly with two strikes made his last strike at a local Red Lodge ranch. Last Thursday afternoon, June 18, Roxie Boggio was playing outside on her lawn with her grandchildren at the family ranch off Hwy 78 in Red Lodge, along County Road May Grade Road. “We weren’t back in the house a half hour, when our two Australian shepherds started going nuts.” Then, about 25 feet from her window, she watched a grizzly walk across the lawn.

Her husband Dwight, flew out the door to chase it away in his pickup truck, but Boggio noted, “you can’t harm them, they’re endangered.” The bear ran off behind the corrals. She called both Montana state trapper Mike Gurnett and FWP biologist Shawn Stewart. Both men responded. They made a record of the event and she gave them a photo of the bear she had taken. That night, the grizzly returned. He killed a ewe. On Friday morning, they called the state again. The men returned with a culvert trap, using the dead sheep as bait. Nothing happened that evening. On Saturday evening, the grizzly returned with a vengeance. He ignored the trap and climbed into the corral where the family’s sheep were locked. The family discovered the scene Sunday morning.

Boggio hesitated in telling the story when she got to this part. “It wasn’t pretty,” she said slowly. She said three ewes and four lambs were slaughtered, primarily for their hearts and livers. One of the slaughtered ewes had been raised by her son as a bum lamb. The twin lambs the ewe had given birth to only a month ago were standing close to their mother. She was still alive but had to be put down. The remaining sheep were traumatized. Boggio was horrified that they had locked their sheep in only to have them ravished with no chance of escape even though she realized being loose would not have saved them. At that point, she said, the state agents set up a few snare traps. “We were fortunate that night in that he got his paw caught in a trap’s cable snare,” said Boggio

The snare held and the grizzly was discovered alive but caught in the morning. That created a new problem: she began to worry about risk to humans who might approach the live, trapped grizzly easily seen on her property fronting the county road. “It was my worst fear that someone would be driving by and get out to take a look at him before he was removed.” USDA-Wildlife services officers arrived and with the help of FWP, took the grizzly to Bozeman where he was euthanized. Boggio reflects on what she could have been done but had to admit there was nothing that would have prevented the attack that night. “Dogs are not going to stop a grizzly. Our year old shepherd wouldn’t stop barking but he kept his distance. I don’t think any dog could stop it even the large ones that go with the herd, which we’ve had.” She had been told that they don’t like electric shocks so perhaps an electric fence might deter them. She advises locals, “Be on the lookout. Don’t think you can just walk up to him. It is a huge creature.”

Boggio said they’ve never seen anything like it nor heard of anything like this on the ranch. “My husband has lived here all his life and we’ve been married 38 years. His grandfather started the operation in ’48. We’ve had black bears prey on sheep, and large coyote packs that split up to lure the dogs away to get at the sheep and even seen a wolf print nearby. This was different.”

She believes the bear was known, possibly relocated to the Montana border from Wyoming. This was confirmed in the earlier statement released by FWP: “A 3-year-old male grizzly bear was euthanized at the FWP state wildlife lab in Bozeman Tuesday. The bear was captured Monday morning on private land north of Red Lodge after two separate incidents of depredation occurring Thursday, June 20 and Saturday, June 22.”

The statement continued, “On Thursday, the bear killed one sheep, then returned on Saturday and killed seven more and wounded two others. Both USDA-Wildlife Services and FWP investigated the incidents and found the bear had been within the confines of corrals and in close proximity to buildings. Wildlife Services officials captured and tranquilized the bear. With help from FWP biologists, the bear was moved to the FWP laboratory in Bozeman, where it was euthanized Tuesday. According to the report, “This was the third time this bear had been captured. It was captured and moved in 2011 and 2012 along with his mother and sibling along the South Fork of the Shoshone River southwest of Cody, Wyo. The bear was in overall good condition for his age and the time of year. It weighed 200 lbs.”

Luke Elfbury, Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore biologist said that this grizzly, its mother and a sibling were all originally relocated in 2011, to the Bridger Tetons, south of Yellowstone Park. In 2012, the two cubs, now yearlings, returned to Cody and were again relocated to the same place. The sibling has not been seen since. “The mother had been collared, but she dropped it last year and we’ve not seen her,” he said. After the frightening experience, the Boggios were grateful to the state, “We especially want to thank Shawn (Stewart). He was very helpful, informative and willing to help us.” Once he was there she said, “We felt we weren’t alone.”