Two Grant County men have been charged in federal court in Spokane with killing a grizzly bear.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials say Brandon Rodeback of Moses Lake and Kurtis Cox of Warden killed the bear in 2007, thinking it was a black bear, which are legal to kill.
They are charged with possessing and transporting an unlawfully killed endangered species. They are scheduled to appear in court Tuesday, the Columbia Basin Herald reports.
Court documents say another hunter spotted the two men moving the bear from one truck to another in a motel parking lot in Ione. After he told them it was a grizzly, they became nervous and left. The man gave wildlife officials the truck’s license plate number.
Wildlife officials traced the license plate back to Rodeback. He said he and Cox saw the bear running across a road and fired. Investigators say the men took the bear to a Warden shop, skinning it and burying the carcass.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Deputy Chief Mike Cenci called the loss of the grizzly a setback for recovery efforts. The bear was tagged with a radio transmitter and followed for the past 14 years.
“This bear has consistently produced cubs year after year, and, even more important, it’s stayed out of trouble,” he said. “An animal that was really important to grizzly recovery was taken out of the gene pool.”
There are education programs available to hunters to teach them the differences between grizzlies and black bears. A grizzly has a shoulder hump and a lower rump than the black bear.
“You shouldn’t use color for identification because black bears are often confused with grizzly bears,” he said. “If there is any doubt, you don’t pull the trigger.”