ID: Hunter mistakenly shoots grizzly bear in North Idaho

Hunter mistakenly shoots grizzly bear in North Idaho | The Spokesman-Review


A hunter in North Idaho shot and killed a grizzly bear last week after mistaking it for a black bear.

The hunter killed the young male grizzly June 10 in the lower St. Joe River area, near St. Maries, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Grizzlies in the Lower 48 are protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The hunter identified the bear as a grizzly after shooting it and reported it to the authorities, according to Fish and Game.

T.J. Ross, an Idaho Fish and Game spokesman, said the hunter was given a warning and was not cited.

Ross said that decision was made because the hunter has been “extremely cooperative” with the investigation, and because while grizzlies are around in North Idaho, the bear was shot in an area where sightings are uncommon.

“That’s an area where we would not expect to see a grizzly bear,” Ross said.

It’s the second consecutive year that there’s been a case of mistaken bear identity in North Idaho. A hunter north of Priest Lake mistook a grizzly for a black bear last June.

That hunter was cited, but that kill took place in the Selkirk Mountains, one of the two places in Idaho that are home to most of the state’s grizzlies.

The bruin killed last week was shot in the Panhandle region’s Unit Six, a broad area that stretches south from the divide between the St. Joe River drainage and the Coeur d’Alene river drainage.

Ross did not know the last time a grizzly bear was seen there, but he said agency officials were surprised to learn that one was in the area.

Grizzlies are known to wander long distances in search of food, particularly young male bears. In Montana, bears from other areas have been spotted moving into the Bitterroot ecosystem. Earlier this month in northeast Washington a young male grizzly was caught on a trail camera north of Chewelah, another area where sightings are rare.

Black bear hunters in Washington and Montana are required to pass a test to ensure they know the difference between black bears and grizzlies.

Idaho has no such requirement. Fish and Game said in the news release announcing the bear’s death that it’s a hunter’s responsibility to know the difference between black bears and grizzly bears and to properly identify their targets.

The state’s bear hunting regulations do warn hunters that they may encounter grizzlies in unit six and other parts of the Panhandle region, and the agency does work to educate hunters about the differences between the species.

“From our perspective, the best tool in the tool belt is the education piece,” Ross said.

Size and color aren’t enough to determine the species of a bear. Instead, people should look for multiple features, such as the shape of the bear’s face, ears and whether it has a shoulder hump.

Idaho’s black bear hunting seasons vary in length depending on the unit. In the unit where this grizzly was killed, the season runs through June 30.


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