Bear predation becoming a greater problem for livestock

RBC | The issue of increasing livestock predation by black bears has left Colorado officials looking for solutions to protect both livestock and wildlife. However, lawsuits filed by environmental activist groups are challenging Colorado’s predator control tactics.

According to a presentation given by USDA Wildlife Services at Rangely and Meeker town council meetings, bears are quickly becoming the greatest threat to Colorado livestock. Ten years ago the threat of livestock loss to bears was minimal, with so few deaths reported that bear predation was statistically unimportant. It wasn’t until 2010 that black bears quickly became a major threat to livestock with more than 1,000 cattle and 3,920 calf deaths reported in 2015, second only to coyotes. A similar trend has been noted in sheep and lambs.

The increase in bear predation is linked to an increase in bear population which comes from a variety of factors. The Colorado Constitution prevents spring bear hunts or the use of dogs when hunting bears. Increased prey population including elk and cattle calves, fawns and lambs and the relocation of urban problem bears are also contributing factors.

In order to combat the problem, the USDA and Colorado Parks and Wildlife have increased predator control activities, taking more than 120 bears in 2017 and developing a three-year plan aimed at reducing mountain lion and bear populations in the Piceance and Arkansas River Basins.

Last spring WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit to stop CPW’s plans. WildEarth Guardians have also filed a separate suit against CPW alleging their use of traps is a violation of the Colorado Constitution which prohibits trapping.