Idaho Officials Won’t Charge Hunter Who Killed Grizzly—Because They Told Him It Was a Black Bear

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The Idaho Fish and Game announced on Tuesday that it will not issue a citation to a hunter who killed a federally protected grizzly bear June 10 while hunting over a legal black bear bait site “due to extenuating circumstances”—namely, that its own staff told the hunter that the grizzly was a black bear before the hunter shot it.

In a June 18 press release, the department revealed that “two days prior to the incident, the hunter recorded video of the bear at the bait site and sent it to Fish and Game for review. The hunter expressed concern that the bear was a grizzly and not a black bear. Unfortunately, Fish and Game staff misidentified the young bear as a black bear because it lacked some common features of a grizzly, and shared that misidentification with the hunter.”

The release includes two videos taken by the hunter. A 46-second clip appears to show a black bear chased off the bait site by a brown-colored bear, which turned out to be the grizzly in question. A 23-second clip shows the young grizzly walking around the bait site below the hunter’s elevated stand.

The first video provided by the hunter.

The grizzly was killed in Idaho Unit 6 on U.S. Forest Service land near the Lower St. Joe River, about five miles from the town of St. Maries, an area not commonly used by grizzly bears, which tend to be concentrated in the northern Panhandle and the area in and around Yellowstone National Park in eastern Idaho. However, as the release notes, young male grizzlies may wander long distances and into areas where people don’t expect to encounter them.

The second, shorter clip submitted by the hunter.

Grizzly bears have been listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1975 in the lower 48 states. It is illegal to harm, harass, or kill these bears, except in cases of self-defense or the defense of others. In this case, the hunter immediately contacted the Idaho Fish and Game after examining the carcass and fully cooperated with the investigation, the agency noted.

“The incident underscores the importance of all hunters, including Fish and Game staff, being capable and confident in properly identifying species and their target prior to shooting,” the release notes. As Idaho Fish and Game’s bear identification literature states, size and color of a bear are not reliable indicators of species. Grizzly bears typically have short, rounded ears, a dished facial profile, a prominent shoulder hump and 2-4 inch long claws. Black bears have larger, pointed ears, a straight face profile, no hump and 1-2 inch long claws.

“Fish and Game regrets the mistake made by its staff, the undue stress the situation caused for the hunter and the loss of the grizzly bear,” the release says. “Fish and Game is reviewing its staff’s part in the incident as a personnel matter.”



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