Grizzly CSI by Angus Thuermer for Wyofile

Wyoming Game and Fish Large Carnivore Biologist Zach Turnbull determines the cause of death on a calf in 2014 (provided Mark Gocke, Wyoming Game and Fish).

Another great article by Angus Thuermer of Wyofile. This depicts the daily life of one of those professionals in the middle- and in the details- of a thorny natural resource/environmental conflict. It also shows how important trust is for people involved in making the policy machinations happen in real life and the role of professional judgment based on experience. There’s also a great deal on the nuts and bolts of the Wyoming Animal Damage Compensation Program.

The entire article is well worth reading, but I excerpted the paragraph about Turnbull’s professional credibility

$1.5 million
On this hot July 18, Turnbull isn’t satisfied he has an answer on this cow until he is done skinning. He drags the hide out from the morass of would-be hamburger and lays it out in the sagebrush and grass.

He examines the underside of the skin, looking for puncture holes from the teeth of a bear or wolf, rips from a grizzly’s claws.

“For being as ugly as she is, she’s pretty clean,” he says. “Clean” meaning there’s no sign of attack. “She doesn’t have a hole in her except where she’s [been] fed on.”

Although he will make his report later, at this point he considers the “more likely than not” standard of predation. “I’d say she’s far below that,” he says.

Turnbull’s 16 years’ field experience from his post in Pinedale has earned him credibility. In 2019 the Green River Cowbelles/Cattlewomen honored him as a Friend of Agriculture for his work. Ranchers called him responsive, responsible and fair.

“I’ve been there on those kills,” says Charles Price, one of the ranchers whose stock grazes near Union Pass. “I have a lot of respect for him.”

“He goes through it and looks — there’s maggots crawling, flies, it smells bad,” Price says. “He sits there and does the work. I couldn’t do it myself.”

Price doesn’t always agree with Turnbull’s verdicts and has “bumped heads with him a few times,” he says. But, “most of the time I would bet on his call even when I disagree with him,” Price says. “I support him.”

Fed/State Coordination

Repeat offenders
There’s another aspect to Turnbull’s job. When grizzlies are persistent in killing stock, Game and Fish will move or kill them.

That’s done in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But Turnbull often makes the first call.

Ranchers seek to avoid depredation. The cattle association has altered its grazing sequence to keep smaller animals farther from grizzly haunts and tried other methods.

“After the 2015 grazing season, the Association worked with an organization to sponsor a number of seminars focused on methods to reduce large carnivore depredation of cattle,” Sommers wrote in his declaration. “Out of these discussions, in an effort to reduce depredations, the Association tried cattle bunching techniques in one pasture system for two consecutive years.

“The goal was to make cattle less susceptible to predation,” he wrote. “[H]owever, the Association did not see any reduction in depredation and has discontinued that practice.”

There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for when to trap or move a bear, Turnbull said. “One strike, two strikes, three strikes — it’s not really how it happens,” he said. “It’s not a really good description of conflict management.

“There are bears that we have captured and removed the first time we have captured them,” he said. “There are bears we have captured several times before we removed or didn’t remove them.”

4 thoughts on “Grizzly CSI by Angus Thuermer for Wyofile”

  1. Get rid of the stupid cows and the welfare ranchers off our public lands! Bring back bison herds and let wolves, grizzlies and all wildlife roam free. Give Wyoming, the Dakotas, Montana and Idaho back to the First Nations. Tell all the hobbyists and pretenders to move back East. Rona will take care of the rest.

    • It might be easier to just give (back) all currently federal lands ( except for Parks?) to the First Nations. They can then do what they want with regard to recreation, grazing, species and so on. With all the $ saved from litigation/communication spending and federal lands budgets, more private land could be bought and turned into whatever people wanted- county or state parks or open spaces or whatever.

    • Yep, if only we could reverse time and eliminate dumb humans, would Gaia be more ‘happy, happy, joy, joy’? Yeah! Let’s return grizzlies and wolves to Tahoe, Yosemite, Portland, Seattle and Denver. Send all those humans back to Africa, where they came from! *smirk*

  2. That land changed hands quite a few times before the late 1800s, sorting out who used to own what could be confusing to say the least. Might be best just to deal with the here and now and how much a wildlife biologist costs per year and if skinning out predated carcasses is the best use of his time.


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