Too close for comfort: Farmers recount grizzly bear encounter

Bear makes sheep farm its hunting ground and wreaks destruction before being snared

Bears can wreak havoc on a farm — Norm and Irene Korth learned this the hard way.

The couple has a sheep farm in Clearwater County and lamb about 200 head.

“About four years ago, we had a grizzly here, but we never did catch him,” said Irene Korth

But things escalated this April, on a day the Korths were lambing on one side of the barn. They had some ewe lambs nearby, and penned lambs up at the house. They came back to their farm from an errand, fed the penned lambs, and got up at about 4 a.m. to see if any ewes needed help. They found one lamb missing.

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“I did my usual check. The next morning, we went out and found a penned lamb halfway down to the spring, and three lambs killed,” said Korth.

They knew immediately that they had a grizzly bear on their farm. Fish and Wildlife came out and put traps around because the bear had tried to break into the grain feeder as well.

About 10 days later, the Korths’ dog started barking and “going crazy.”

“I’ve never heard the dog act that way,” said Korth.

The bear, a big grizzly about four or five years old, walked past their house. The Korths got into their truck, drove by and saw that he had busted one of their chutes and severely injured a ewe, who had to be put down.

They found two more dead lambs the next day.

“We didn’t see anything else and then the dog started barking. Sure enough, we put the light out and the bear was there,” said Korth.

Fish and Wildlife set a single snare away from the sheep pens. The next night, the bear came back, trashed the snare and didn’t get caught. Wildlife officials returned and set several snares throughout the trees.

“He came beside and he kicked the snare out. They had it on video of him going in and out five times before he finally got caught in the back which was hooked around the big old tree,” said Korth.

Angered at being captured, the bear clawed all the bark off the tree. But Fish and Wildlife couldn’t come until the daytime because of safety reasons.

An angry grizzly bear scraped all the bark off this tree after being snared at the Korth sheep farm in Clearwater County.
photo: Alexis Kienlen

“We could hear him hollering back at the house,” Korth said.

She added that it was hair raising to be lambing and caring for their sheep, knowing a grizzly had made their farm his hunting ground. All in all, the bear killed nine of their sheep.

Since grizzly bears are a threatened species, it was released in another area.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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