September 16, 2011 in Idaho, News

Grizzly bear kills hunter near Boundary County

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A grizzly bear killed a hunter before being fatally shot Friday near the Boundary County, Idaho, limits, the latest in a series of deadly grizzly bear attacks in the Northwest.

Three men from Nevada were hunting bears in a remote area of Buckhorn Mountain near the Montana border when the grizzly attacked one of them and was shot and killed by a group member, authorities say.

The fatal grizzly attack comes as Idaho’s congressional delegation has proposed to amend the Endangered Species Act to reiterate that it’s OK to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person after a North Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly cub on his property paid was charged. It’s also one of at least three fatal encounters in three months between people and grizzly bears in the region.

Officials initially thought Friday’s attack occurred in Idaho but used a GPS device to place the attack in Montana. Boundary County spokesman Mike Weland said a dispute between Idaho authorities and Lincoln County, Mont., sheriff’s officials had to be resolved Friday evening before the victim’s body was removed. Search and rescue crews from Idaho and Montana are at the scene, as well as a helicopter and officials from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Weland said.

The three hunters have family in Boundary County and have been taking an annual trip to the area for years, Weland said. They had tags from Montana to hunt bears and were armed with rifles, Weland said.

“The bear season just opened yesterday over there,” Weland said Friday.

Authorities say they are waiting for family to be notified of the man’s death before they release his name.

Weland said the circumstances of the fatal attack and subsequent shooting are still being investigated, but that the bear was shot while it was attacking.

Legislation proposed by U.S. senators and representatives from Idaho last week to reiterate the lawfulness of self defense against grizzlies is in response to a North Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly cub in May after it and two others wandered onto his property and were seen near his children’s 4-H pig pen.

Jeremy Hill, 33, of Porthill, was charged with a federal crime, but it was dropped last week and he paid a $1,000 fine for a noncriminal infraction.

Experts say the number of grizzlies, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, appears to be increasing in the area as the number of encounters between the bears and humans, though rare, increases. Montana recorded six encounters in May alone, including four that ended with the grizzlies shot and killed. No humans were killed in those attacks, but two hikers were killed on separate occasions in Yellowstone National Park in July and August.

In July 2010, a camper was mauled to death by a grizzly bear at a campground just outside of Cooke City, Mont., near Yellowstone.

Twelve people were killed by bears in Montana and Wyoming in the 30 years prior to last summer, according to The Billings Gazette.


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