Vally Bardwell has lived on her property near Rocky Mountain House for 28 years and never seen a grizzly bear on her land.
“Lots of coyotes, wolves, cougars and black bears. This is the first time we’ve had grizzlies there,” she said.
But when the grizzlies came, a pair of them on June 9, they left three dead alpacas and a llama behind them. Bardwell saw the grizzlies the previous day but never heard the overnight attack, discovering the remains early the following morning on her property west of Crimson Lake.
The bears were at a neighbours the next day and killed three sheep and a billy goat. Bardwell doesn’t blame the grizzlies. Their territory is getting encroached on all the time, she said.
“I was just really, really mad because of the ones they got. The only two pitch-black studs and the guard llama, which wasn’t very good.” The herd sire was also killed.
The guard llama was called Ghost and he sacrificed his life the night of the attacks. “He was doing his job.”
Her remaining 20 alpacas, and 13 horses, including three of her own, are still skittish. “Everything’s been freaked out ever since. They don’t exactly act normal.”
Bardwell takes a practical view of the unusual attack.
“If you choose to live in the bush you put up with the wild things in the bush. If you choose to live in the city you put up with the wild things in the city,” she said.
The grizzlies have not been seen since and she was not surprised that Fish and Wildlife was not able to locate and trap them.
Fish and Wildlife officer Tony Brooks said a bear response team was put together and both snares and culvert traps placed.
“After the second day, the bears left the area so we didn’t have any success in catching them,” said Brooks on Wednesday. “And we haven’t had any complaints since.”
This the first time there have been any livestock killed by grizzlies in the Rocky Mountain House area for a number of years, he said. There has not been an unusual number of black bear sightings or complaints this spring. Typically, at this time of year up to a dozen calls come in.
In May, bear hunters southwest of Caroline got a little more than they bargained for when grizzlies were attracted to bear baits.
A number of baits had been set up to lure black bears towards the hunters’ tree stands.
However, several grizzly bears also got a taste for the bait, which was placed in the Burntstick Lake area about 30 km southwest of Caroline.
Fish and Wildlife told the hunters to remove their baits so the grizzlies would move on. It was unusual to see grizzlies in that area.