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Feds consider possible trophy hunts for grizzlies around Yellowstone

Federal authorities are laying groundwork for possible trophy grizzly bear hunts around the Yellowstone area as soon as 2014, the AP reports, in the surest sign yet that more than 30 years of ederal protection for grizzlies in the area is nearing an end. Officials stressed that any grizzly season would differ significantly from the aggressive wolf hunts now underway in Idaho and Montana, and would not be aimed at reducing grizzly numbers. “It would be a very careful, limited hunt,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A federal-state committee that oversees grizzly bears will consider adopting a pro-hunting policy during a meeting next week; click below for a full report from AP reporter Matthew Brown in Billings.

Bear Encounter: Down and dirty travel on the Wilderness Explorer

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)


    When we signed on for a small-ship journey along Alaska’s Inside Passage, we were promised the opposite of a traditional cruise. We were promised an un-cruise, to be specific. Instead of a leisurely sail past some of the most beautiful scenery on the continent, instead of endless buffets and variety shows, we would venture up secluded coves and into narrow fjords and channels thick with Humpback whales. We would paddle kayaks around icebergs, near glaciers and along pristine shorelines. We would step off the boat and into the real Alaska.


    InnerSea Discoveries promised me we would get our feet dirty.


    On the first full day of the voyage, a dozen or so of us stepped into a skiff and rode to the shore for a hike. Walking along the coast at the mouth of a small stream, we listened as our guide talked about the likelihood of seeing bears (this was a favorite fishing spot) and his words were still hanging in the air when the first Grizzly ambled, as if on cue, into sight.


    The bear was young, probably a yearling on his own for the first season. Wading into water that was alive with leaping and splashing salmon, he seemed bewildered, not sure where to turn or pounce next.  Finally, at a disadvantage, he gave up and, aware but not particularly interested in us, followed the stream up to a short waterfall. Then, as we watched, a second young bear stepped out of the trees.
    This was already much more than I’d ever expected.


    The two bears eyed one another as they got closer and closer, finally meeting nose to nose in the middle of the stream. Then, while we stood silent and breathless, they rose on their hind legs and came together in a slow and powerful embrace. We soon realized they weren’t really fighting, but rather playing at fighting; wrestling, wrapping their arms about one another, throwing arcs of water droplets high in the air with each move.


     For almost half an hour the two bears splashed and hugged and tussled and nipped at one another’s ears and shaggy fur. We couldn’t tell if they were siblings who’d stumbled onto one another at a familiar spot or teenagers still somewhere between flirting and playing, but we knew that what we were seeing was an extraordinary experience.


     I didn’t blink, pressing the shutter again and again, trying to capture the amazing performance going on in front of me.


    Finally, as the two bears stopped playing and finally, just like kids who’d dawdled over their chores, got about the business of foraging and feeding, we walked carefully back to the waiting skiff. As we moved away from the shore, finally far enough away to find our voices, everyone began to talk at once. We were the fortunate ones and we celebrated it. It was the most incredible thing I’ve ever seen. Just thinking about it now gives me chills. The moment was splendid and wild and real.


    The captain had already heard about our adventure and was there to meet us as the skiff pulled back up to the side of the Wilderness Explorer. She reached out to each of us as we came aboard.


    One foot on the deck, the other still on the small raft, I looked down at my boots and I had to smile. They were caked with the gritty, sandy, glacial soil so unique to Alaska. My mind and my camera were full of images and my feet were dirty, just as I’d been promised.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Spokesman-Review Home Planet and Treasure Hunting columns and blogs and her CAMera: Travel and Photo blog, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

Griz Wrangler Adusts To New Normal

A few weeks ago, she was just a wrangler who led dudes on trail rides near Glacier National Park. This week, Erin Bolster is trying to deal with a thousand email messages a day, not to mention book proposals and tempting job offers. The wrangler who rode her horse to the rescue of a young boy being threatened by a grizzly bear this summer is trying to settle back into her Montana lifestyle. That’s easier said than done after a Sept. 18 feature in The Spokesman-Review trotted Erin Bolster and her horse, Tonk, into the national spotlight. The ride peaked with an Oct. 11 appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.” “I’m not sure I’ve landed yet,” said the 25-year-old Virginia native after returning from New York City to her home in Whitefish, Mont./Rich Landers, SR. More here. (CBS photo: Horse hauler Randy Siemsen and Erin Bolster with Tonk on Letterman stage)

Question: What would you do if you were in Erin Bolster's shoes?

Wrangler, Tonk Wow Letterman Crowd

SR buddy Rich Landers/Outdoors blog posted this video of wrangler Erin Bolster's appearance last night on the “David Letterman Show.” You can read Rich's story here.

Letterman Features Brave Wrangler

The horse Tonk and Erin Bolster receive warm applause after being introduced by Late Show host David Letterman. At the end of July, the Whitefish, Montana native and saved the life of an 8-year-old Illinois boy when Bolster, riding astride Tonk, helped scare a charging grizzly bear away from the boy as she was leading a group of eight people on a trail ride near Glacier National Park. (Photo: John P. Filo/CBS Broadcasting Inc.)

Fans of heroes, horses, wranglers and grizzly bears got it all in one package Tuesday night on “The Late Show with David Letterman.” Trail riding guide Erin Bolster and her horse from Whitefish, Mont., were featured on the CBS show after a Sept. 18 Spokesman-Review feature trotted the duo into the national spotlight. “How can you not love this story?” Letterman said as he introduced Bolster. The host praised the 25-year-old wrangler who leveraged her own bravery as she persuaded the horse to save a child by charging a grizzly bear head on. She’d been acquainted with the leased horse from the Swan Mountain Outfitters stock pool for only two months/Rich Landers, SR. More here. (AP file photo, inset: Ian Turner, of northern California, who is the boy Bolster protected)

Question: Have you ever done something worthy of David Letterman?

Spotlight Finds Gutsy Wrangler, Horse

Rich Landers’ story, “Gutsy wrangler, huge horse, save boy from charging grizzly” (Sept. 18) struck a chord with Spokesman-Review readers – and then spread across the continent like jet-propelled stallions. The story of Erin Bolster and her horse, Tonk, went viral on the Internet, capturing the hearts of a country with an appetite for heroes, horses and potential tragedies with happy endings – for both the people and the bear. On the average, 35,000 people a day were viewing the story, a number that jumped to 97,000 a day on Wednesday when Google added it to it’s News Spotlight list. “It’s been crazy,” said Bolster from her home in Whitefish, Mont., noting that she’s been interviewed by numerous publications, TV and radio since the S-R story went wild. The David Letterman Show has tentatively booked her for Oct. 4 or 5/SR Outdoors. More here.

Question: What elements are needed for a story to go viral?

Letterman Tabs Grizzly Wrangler

Rich Landers writes: “My Outdoors feature story last Sunday, “Gutsy wrangler, huge horse, save boy from charging grizzly” struck a chord with Spokesman-Review readers –and then spread to readers across the continent like jet-propelled stallions. The story of Erin Bolster and her horse, Tonk, riding herd on a grizzly bear near Glacier National Park went viral on the Internet, capturing the hearts of a country with an appetite for heroes, horses and potential tragedies with happy endings – for both the people and the bear. …  “It’s been crazy,” said Bolster from her home in Whitefish, Mont., noting that she’s been interviewed by numerous publications, TV and radio since the S-R story went wild. On Friday, she tentatively was booked for Oct. 4 or 5 on the David Letterman show. More here.

Question: Which one of the late-night shows do you watch?

Wrangler Saves Boy From Grizzly

Grizzlies are high profile this year. A lingering winter and late berry crop kept bears in proximity to humans longer than normal, perhaps contributing to a stream of headlines about grizzlies killing people and people killing grizzlies. Meanwhile, a young lady on a big horse charged out of the pack of grizzly stories near Glacier National Park. In a cloud of dust, the 25-year-old wrangler likely saved a boy’s life while demonstrating that skill, quick-thinking and guts sometimes are the best weapons against a head-on charging grizzly. On July 30, Erin Bolster of Swan Mountain Outfitters was guiding eight clients on a horse ride on the Flathead National Forest between West Glacier and Hungry Horse, Mont./Rich Landers, SR. More here. (Courtesy photo: Erin Bolster, a wrangler for Swan Mountain Outfitters near Glacier Park, poses with her horse, Tonk.)

Question: Do you hike, camp, or trail ride much in grizzly country? What do you take along to protect yourself?

ESA Griz Defense Changes Redundant

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how both of Idaho's U.S. senators and North Idaho's congressman introduced legislation today to amend the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it's OK to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person, in response to the Jeremy Hill incident. However, the law already says that - in the very next section after the one the new bill would amend. A spokesman for Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said the bill would “bolster” that provision, but a national species conservation group called it “simply political grandstanding”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Reaction?

Idaho lawmakers propose ‘redundant’ changes to Endangered Species Act

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how both of Idaho's U.S. senators and North Idaho's congressman introduced legislation today to amend the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it's OK to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person, in response to the Jeremy Hill incident. However, the law already says that - in the very next section after the one the new bill would amend. A spokesman for Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo said the bill would “bolster” that provision, but a national species conservation group called it “simply political grandstanding.”

Jeremy Hill of Porthill, Idaho shot a grizzly last May after it and two others wandered onto his property and were seen near his children's 4-H pig pen; he feared his six children were outside playing at the time. He was charged with a federal crime, but it later was dropped in favor of a non-criminal infraction, and Hill agreed to pay a $1,000 fine.
  

Species group: ‘Simply political grandstanding’

Derek Goldman, Northern Rockies representative for the Endangered Species Coalition, a national network of hundreds of groups that support species conservation, today blasted new legislation proposed by two Idaho senators and one Idaho congressman to amend the Endangered Species Act. “This is case of politicians using a single, rare and unfortunate incident to pander to extremists who want to undermine common-sense protections for wildlife,” Goldman said. “This is simply political grandstanding by politicians who want to weaken laws that protect our wildlife and wildlife habitat for future generations of Americans.” Click below for his full statement. 
  

Idaho lawmakers’ ESA amendment repeats provisions already in the law…

Here's something odd: I've been hunting for the existing language in the Endangered Species Act that would be modified by the new legislation introduced today by three members of Idaho's congressional delegation, Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador, to clarify that people can shoot grizzly bears in self-defense. It turns out that practically identical language already exists in the very next section of the ESA that follows the one the Idaho lawmakers would amend.

Their bill says, “Notwithstanding any other provision of law (including regulations), the provisions of this Act shall not apply with respect to the taking of any grizzly bear by an individual who demonstrates to the Secretary by a preponderance of the evidence that the individual carried out the taking as a result of: 1 - self defense; 2 - defense of another individual; or 3 - a reasonable belief of imminent danger posed by the grizzly bear to any individual.” This language, under the bill, would be tacked on to the end of Section 10 of 16 USC 1539.

In the existing law, in 16 USC 1540, there are two clauses, one about civil penalties, and one about criminal violations. They say: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no civil penalty shall be imposed if it can be shown by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant committed an act based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual from bodily harm, from any endangered or threatened species.” And: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, it shall be a defense to prosecution under this subsection if the defendant committed the offense based on a good faith belief that he was acting to protect himself or herself, a member of his or her family, or any other individual, from bodily harm from any endangered or threatened species.”

I queried University of Idaho law professor Dale Gobel, an expert on the Endangered Species Act, to find the existing language in the law. “It's in the statute,” he said, noting of the bill with a chuckle, “It seems redundant, but other than that, why not?”

Crapo, Risch, Labrador introduce ESA changes in wake of North Idaho grizzly shooting

Three members of Idaho's congressional delegation - Sens. Mike Crapo and Jim Risch and 1st District Rep. Raul Labrador - are introducing legislation aimed at amending the Endangered Species Act in the wake of the Jeremy Hill case, in which a North Idaho man was charged with a federal crime for shooting one of three grizzly bears that wandered onto his property; the charge later was reduced to an infraction and Hill agreed to pay a fine. The three lawmakers said their new bill would clarify that it's not a crime to shoot a grizzly bear in self defense, in defense of another individual, or out of “a reasonable belief of imminent danger posed by the grizzly bear to any individual.”

Hill said he was concerned about his children, who he thought might have been playing outside when the mother grizzly and two cubs wandered into his yard near a pen holding the children's 4-H pigs. Risch said, “Everyone who followed Mr. Hill’s case understood that he was not hunting a grizzly bear.  He was protecting his family, which he truly believed was in harm’s way. This legislation will allow an individual to act in self-defense without having to mount a costly defense for their actions, if done appropriately.  This is a common-sense change that needs to be passed.” You can read the three lawmakers' full statement here.

The Endangered Species Act already permits killing a grizzly bear in self-defense. “This just basically adds some more language to further bolster the self-defense language that's in the ESA,” said Lindsay Nothern, Crapo's press secretary. “I wouldn't call it a major change in the law.” But he said the lawmakers believe the Jeremy Hill case showed “that maybe we need to clarify the language in the law, and that's what we're doing.”

Charge dropped in North Idaho grizzly shooting

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dropped misdemeanor charges against a Porthill, Idaho, man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard, reports S-R reporter Becky Kramer; you can read her story here at spokesman.com. Instead, Jeremy M. Hill was issued a citation for the May 8 shooting of the male grizzly, and paid a $1,000 fine.

Labrador’s take on grizzly shooting case

1st District Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador issued this statement on the Jeremy Hill grizzly bear shooting case in North Idaho:

“Only Jeremy knows the threat this bear posed to his family and property.  No one from D.C. or Boise was present to know the circumstances surrounding his actions, but the Endangered Species Act shouldn’t force us to second-guess these types of life or death decisions.  If the facts that have appeared in the media accounts are true and accurate, then the judgment call Jeremy made to protect his family and property appears to be justified.

“It is heartening though to see the great people of northern Idaho rallying around the Hill family during this difficult time.  Jeremy Hill deserves a fair trial and the moral and financial support he is receiving from his neighbors will help ensure that he does.  However, this situation clearly illustrates that the Endangered Species Act needs to be looked at with fresh eyes as animal populations recover while human populations increase in close proximity. I will work with my colleagues in the Idaho Congressional Delegation to address such concerns within that law.”

News BF: Jeremy Hill Did Right Thing

On Mother’s Day, May 8, 2011, 33 year old Jeremy Hill was enjoying this special occasion with his family. He had no idea that his life was about to change; and all because he did the right thing. After his guests had left, four of his six children were outside playing and shooting baskets in front of the house. His 5 year old daughter Aspen, the 8 year old twin girls Mercedes and Sierra, and his 11 year old son Cameron were engrossed in their play not realizing that three grizzly bears had come onto their property from the trees through the yard at the back of their home, not 40 yards away from where they were playing. Luckily for the children, the bears went after their four pigs in a pen on the side of their log home. Two of the pigs were for the kid’s 4H project and the other two were being raised for food. Jeremy was just getting out of the shower when his wife Rachel saw the bears out of their bedroom window/Mike Weland, News Bonners Ferry. More here. (News Bonners Ferry photo/Mike Weland, of Jasmine Hill's pig, Regena, which sold 15 times for $19,558 at county fair to raise money for father's defense fund.)

Reaction?

Idaho senators weigh in on grizzly shooting

Both of Idaho's U.S. senators have now weighed in on the case of Jeremy Hill, the North Idaho man who's charged with killing a two-year-old male grizzly bear on his property on May 8; Gov. Butch Otter already wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar going to bat for Hill. Here's Sen. Jim Risch's statement:

“The federal case against Mr. Hill for shooting a grizzly that was on his property, where he believed he was protecting his family, is another example for the need to reform the Endangered Species Act.  Protection of your family and property has been sacrosanct since this country was formed.  What Mr. Hill did was not a criminal act in the court of common sense.  My hope is that common sense prevails in this case.”

Here's Sen. Mike Crapo's statement:

CRAPO ON GRIZZLY BEAR SHOOTING
Urges swift and fair treatment for accused

Washington, DC – The U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho recently filed federal criminal charges under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) against Jeremy Hill of Porthill, Idaho, for killing a grizzly bear on his property on May 8, 2011.  Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) which handles oversight of the ESA, says that Mr. Hill deserves swift and just treatment, and urges the federal government to show fairness and common sense when considering the case.

“I have deep concerns about this incident and the decision of the government to prosecute Mr. Hill, who did what any parent would do in this situation.  Clearly, Mr. Hill thought that his family was in danger and was protecting them from harm.  I understand that the Endangered Species Act is intended to protect threatened and endangered species, but Congress never intended to do so at the expense of basic public safety and the ability to protect oneself or their loved ones in the face of danger.  The American people need to know that they can protect themselves, their families and property when threatened by federally protected wildlife, and that the government will support their right to do so.

Mr. Hill and his family deserve for this matter to come to a fair and swift conclusion, and once that happens, Congress needs to get to work on commonsense ESA reforms to ensure that this deeply unfortunate situation never happens again.  In the meantime, I am going to work with my delegation colleagues and the governor to ensure that Mr. Hill and his family get the fairest possible treatment under the law and can move on with their lives.”

Crapo Remarks On Grizzly Shooting

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo's statement about the grizzly shooting case involving Jeremy Hill of Bonners Ferry: “I have deep concerns about this incident and the decision of the government to prosecute Mr. Hill, who did what any parent would do in this situation.  Clearly, Mr. Hill thought that his family was in danger and was protecting them from harm.  I understand that the Endangered Species Act is intended to protect threatened and endangered species, but Congress never intended to do so at the expense of basic public safety and the ability to protect oneself or their loved ones in the face of danger.  The American people need to know that they can protect themselves, their families and property when threatened by federally protected wildlife, and that the government will support their right to do so.” More below.

Question: Are you glad/mad that Gov. Butch Otter and the Idaho delegation have gotten involved in this case?

Hill Family Spends Birthday In Court

Rachel Hill and she and Jeremy's six children, including Jasmine, holding the baby at left, who celebrated her 14th birthday by attending her dad's arraignment on a federal felony charge for killing a grizzly bear. Story by Mike Weland/News Bonners Ferry here. (H/T: Duane Rasmussen)

Question: Have you ever lived in bear country?

Otter appeals to Interior Secty Salazar re North Idaho man who shot grizzly

Gov. Butch Otter has penned a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in defense of Jeremy Hill, the Boundary County man who shot a grizzly bear that had entered his yard while his young children were out playing, and now faces federal charges. “I recognize the federal jurisdiction under the Endangered Species Act, but I strongly support the right of individuals to defend themselves and others in such situations,” Otter wrote. “Many, including me, feel Mr. Hill did what a concerned parent would do.”

The governor wrote, “No one disputes that Jeremy Hill killed a grizzly bear. The dispute appears to be over the reason for shooting the bear. I would sincerely appreciate your looking into this case and assisting in any way you can.” You can read Otter's full letter here.

Prosecution of homeowner who shot grizzly arouses concern in North Idaho

Here's a link to our full story in today's paper on the prosecution of a Boundary County man who shot and killed a grizzly bear that had appeared in his yard with its mother and another two-year-old cub on May 8, while his six children were playing outside. Jeremy Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty to the federal charge yesterday; so many supporters showed up at his arraignment that the hearing had to be moved into a larger room in the federal courthouse in Coeur d'Alene. Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, told S-R reporter Becky Kramer after the hearing, “It seems unjust to me that someone would be charged when they were protecting their family. I’m at a loss to understand why the U.S. government is pursuing this in the manner they are.”

Hill called Idaho Fish & Game to report the incident immediately after. “Jeremy did the right thing, he called Fish and Game,” Keough said. “I think that prosecuting this case really sets back the grizzly bear recovery effort. … People are saying, ‘Boy, if that happened to me, there’s no way that I’d report it.’ That’s a human reaction.” A jury trial for Hill has been set for Oct. 4; if convicted of illegally killing a federally protected species, he could face up to a year in prison and fines of up to $50,000.
  

Keough: Grizzlies Getting Awful Close

Item: Montana moves grizzly from Whitefish Mountain Range to Cabinets near Troy/Jim Mann, Daily Inter Lake

Idaho Sen. Shawn Keough (via Facebook): This is pretty close to us considering the range of grizzly bears. I guess we should be happy this particular bear doesn’t have any bad history of interaction with humans - yet. Spar Lake is featured on several different recreational web sites as a great place to go. Hope they add a note about grizzly bears in the area. And I hope it stays near Spar Lake.

Question: Do you want western Bonner County to become grizzly habitat by default, through the actions of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks?

At Priest Lake, Black Bear? Or Grizzly?

At Pecky’s As The Lake Churns, Bill offers the photo above, from Monday, and asks: “A friend of mine met this bear and her cub Monday on Priest Lake trail. Luckily my friend was close to her car and was able to get back inside to take this photo. Do you know someone who can tell us if it’s a grizzly or just a black bear?”

Question: Black bear? Or grizzly?

Bear found, and it’s OK

The mama grizzly bear that attacked an eastern Idaho hunter after his hounds surrounded her and her cubs has been located, and either the hunter’s brother missed when he fired his pistol at the bear, or any wound she suffered was minor. Idaho Fish & Game reports that DNA tests showed the grizzly was a radio-collared female with three cubs who was known to be in the area. Spotted by a Fish & Game monitoring flight, both the collared bear and her three cubs “appeared fine,” reported Daryl Meints, regional wildlife manager for the Upper Snake Region of Idaho Fish & Game. The injured hunter was treated for lacerations to his right arm. He and two others were hunting black bears when they surprised the grizzly; the incident left Fish & Game warning that a wounded grizzly might be on the loose in the area, on Bishop Mountain near Harriman State Park. Now, F&G officials “recommend that anyone heading into the backcountry carry bear spray.”