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Raising cattle and kids in bear country

The Bradley family
The Bradley Family, Front Range Counties Farm Bureau members from Dupuyer, Montana.

Trina Jo Bradley grew up on a ranch west of the small town of Dupuyer on the Rocky Mountain Front where her family still ranches. “I have three siblings and we grew up like all the other country kids, getting dirty and running around outside. We had horses, cows and even pigs for a while.”

When she married her husband, Peter, she moved to Birch Creek which lies 15 miles west of the small town of Valier. At that time, he had two daughters Samantha and Shayna, ages 13 and 11. (They are now 30 and 28.) Trina noted that their childhood was a lot different than her daughter, Kaydence (pictured, right), who is now 12—all because of Grizzly bears.

“Sam and Shayna could play outside, head down to the creek and run around by themselves. Today, Kadence can hardly leave the yard because of the bears. She always needs to carry a cell phone and tell me where she’s going. There has been big difference raising kids 18 years apart.”

In Birch Creek there was an occasional bear in the early 90s but they were rarely seen. When Trina Jo moved there in 2004, the bears showed up about a year later. “Now we have about 15 resident bears and that doesn’t count the ones that come by here going east in the summer and west in the fall.”

She explained there are three kinds of bears: those that keep to themselves, those that are habituated (not afraid of people and will hang out in farm yards) and those killing livestock. The issue is that any one of those three classes on a given day can be dangerous.

“When Kaydence was about 4, I used to have a big garden and we went out to move the sprinkler about 7 p.m. We got half way between the house and garden which were maybe 20 yards apart. Suddenly our dog froze and I looked up and a Grizzly just on the other side of the garden looking at us,” Trina Jo remembered. “I decided since the dog had taken off after the bear, I just grabbed my daughter and ran into the house. I can’t even have a garden anymore because of the bears.”

“However, being ranchers, we have to go outside because we’re fixing fence, moving cows, riding horses, even mowing the lawn. I always carry a gun and I’m right next to the house,” said Trina Jo. “We have bears in morning, afternoon, heat of the day, they’ll be hanging out next to daughter’s trampoline. We’re not out here in our vacation home watching them at our windows; we’re trying to keep our animals and kids alive when we do our work.”

Despite the concern about bears, daughter Kadence is very involved at the ranch. “She’s a top hand. She’s been in the corral since she was born, literally, as she was born at the same time we started calving. When she was really young, she’d be in a stroller and I’d put her out of the way. Once she was able to, she’d follow us everywhere. She’s a cow-sorting fool.”

Kadence has been involved in 4-H since she was six-year-old, first in Clover Buds at age 6 and then as a 4-H member starting at age 8. She has been showing market lambs but hopes to work her way up to show a steer or heifer. She especially loves driving the machinery, especially the new tractor.

“We got our first new tractor ever three years ago. I’ve driven it two times in three years, but Kadence drives it all the time. If she goes with her dad to feed, she drives it. If we need to move cows during calving, she drives it and we follow behind to make sure all the cows come in. In fact, she’s told me, “If you need to drive the tractor, I’ll help since you don’t know how to do it!”

Story and photos originally published in Montana Parent magazine. Looking for monthly features on farm and ranch moms, provided by Montana Farm Bureau in this great, state-wide publication for parents!



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