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Ranching with Grizzlies

by Ted Kerasote
Spring 2009

One of the models for eco-friendly ranching has been put into practice by Karl Rappold, whose 13,000-acre ranch I visit after a late November storm turns the Rockies white. Founded in 1882, the ranch is located on the Montana Front, a sparsely populated, magical belt of country where the Great Plains meet theupthrust of the Rockies. In fact, the western boundary of the Rappold spread touches the cliffs of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area.

A man of classic Western features – blue eyes, strong chin, auburn mustache, turquoise bandana and black cowboy hat – he drives his pickup toward the mountains and tells me that he understocks his ranch by current standards, running only 300 cow-calf pairs and 100 replacement heifers. This has allowed him to achieve a rare detente with the grizzly bears and wolves that live on his ranch and in the mountains above it.

The origins of his ranching practices, he explains, go back to the days of the Depression, when his father routinely killed grizzlies that preyed on cattle. In those lean times, there was nothing else to be done; one cow might enable a family to get through the winter.

About the Author
Ted Kerasote’s essays about nature and outdoor recreation have appeared in dozens of periodicals. His last book, Out There, won the National Outdoor Book Award. His most recent book, Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog, became a national bestseller and has been translated into many foreign languages.