WY: Wapiti hunter to pay $15K for mistakenly killing grizzly

Wapiti hunter to pay $15K for mistakenly killing grizzly | Powell Tribune


A local black bear hunter who mistakenly killed a grizzly last spring must pay $15,000 in restitution and is barred from hunting over the next year.

At a Wednesday hearing in Park County Circuit Court, Patrick M. Gogerty of Wapiti pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of illegally taking a grizzly without a license. However, under a deal accepted by the court, Gogerty’s guilty plea was deferred and the case will be dismissed if he successfully completes a year of unsupervised probation.

Gogerty shot the bruin early on May 1 along the North Fork corridor in the Shoshone National Forest; he testified he didn’t realize it was a grizzly until approaching the carcass, and he then left the area.

Gogerty killed the bear within view of the Northfork Highway (U.S. Highway 14/16/20W), and passersby soon spotted and reported the carcass. Game Warden Travis Crane of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was dispatched to the area around 9 a.m. He began investigating the killing in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the region’s grizzly bears due to their status as a threatened species.

Meanwhile, bystanders’ photos of the dead, 530-pound boar were posted to social media. The posts drew widespread attention and eventual coverage from national outlets like USA Today, HuffPost and The New York Times.

Gogerty said he tried getting in touch with Game and Fish on the evening of May 1, but “they weren’t open,” he testified, “and I didn’t call.”

The retiree did call Game and Fish early the next morning — around 5:30 a.m. on May 2 — and reported his mistake; the Park County Attorney’s Office filed the criminal case on May 11.

“Gogerty should have turned himself in immediately,” North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane wrote in support of the charge.

At $15,000, the stipulated restitution came in higher than the $10,000 recently assessed on other local black bear hunters who immediately reported they had mistakenly killed a grizzly.

The Game and Fish wanted Gogerty’s hunting privileges to be suspended for three years, said Deputy Park County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Eichele, which would have resulted in the loss of any preference points the hunter had accumulated toward drawing a coveted license. However, as part of plea negotiations, Eichele reduced the suspension to one year and allowed Gogerty to continue purchasing preference points.

The prosecutor also agreed to let Gogerty accompany and potentially assist other hunters — something he’d let Gogerty do while out on bond last fall.

As he accepted the deal and imposed Gogerty’s sentence, Park County Circuit Court Judge Joey Darrah said that “if you’re like me, the loss of your ability to hunt is worse than the fine.” The judge noted that the prohibition will apply to every state that’s joined the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which covers nearly the entire country.

Before joining the bench in late 2021, Darrah represented three different hunters who killed grizzlies, he said.

“I, myself, would not go hunting black bears where grizzly bears were, because it’s too easy to mistake them. And I wouldn’t allow my kids to go … bear hunting where grizzly bears were,” Darrah said. “It’s easy to make a mistake, but it’s a very costly thing.”

Although black bears can have darker fur than grizzlies, the Game and Fish warns that color is an unreliable way to tell the species apart. The department says grizzlies have a prominent shoulder hump, a dished facial profile, short round ears and long, straight claws, while black bears have a straight profile, tall, pointed ears and short, curved claws.

Gogerty reportedly told the Game and Fish that, until seeing the bruin’s claws, pads and head close up, he “felt confident it was a black bear as he could not see a hump on its back,” Crane wrote.

While the warden’s affidavit noted Gogerty’s delayed report, Judge Darrah told the defendant that “it sounds to me like you handled this appropriately.”

“I appreciate the way you handled it,” Darrah said.

The judge added that he hoped it would be a “live and learn” experience for the defendant.

“Definitely,” Gogerty replied.

Both he and his defense attorney, Brigita Krisjansons, made a point of thanking Eichele and Darrah for the case’s resolution.

Gogerty paid the first $1,250 of his restitution following Wednesday’s hearing and is set to make monthly payments going forward. In addition to the restitution, he must pay $70 in court costs and $150 for a crime victim compensation surcharge.


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