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Dean Peterson, a rangy fourth-generation rancher with a handlebar mustache, is used to factoring in all sorts of challenges as he works his vast spread in the Big Hole Valley — summer wildfires that can sweep down the pine-blanketed mountains to the west, harsh winters that can endanger his thousand-plus head of cattle.

Yet, according to a Denver Post report, in the back of his mind these days is a threat most of his forefathers never faced: grizzly bears. Settlers pushing West had all but exterminated the hulking predators by the time Peterson’s great-grandfather arrived here in the late 1800s.

A year ago, however, a trail camera in the nearby forest snapped a grainy photo of a grizzly crossing a stream, marking the first confirmed sighting in the valley in a century. Then in May, Peterson was stunned to see one lope across a snow-dusted road as he drove a four-wheeler a few miles from his property.

“It will happen,” the 51-year-old rancher says of the looming presence of grizzlies. And he is equally matter of fact about what they’ll mean for both him and his neighbors. “It will be more difficult to run cattle.”

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