A grizzly shot by a Boundary County man had approached within 40 yards of his children, who were outside playing basketball, and charged at the man after it was wounded, according to a statement by Boundary County Prosecutor Jack Douglas.
The statement provides more details about the May 8 shooting. Jeremy M. Hill, 33, of Porthill, Idaho, pleaded not guilty last week to a federal charge of illegally killing a threatened species. A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 4.
Douglas is the latest elected official to comment on the case, which has attracted regional attention. Last week, Idaho Gov. Butch Otter sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar defending Hill’s right to protect his family and asking Salazar to look into the matter.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game, which investigated, has not released its report.
Douglas is not involved in the case, but in a three-page statement released over weekend, the prosecutor said he owed it to the people of Boundary County to take a closer look at the issues and “be a beacon pursuing justice.”
He gave this account of the shooting:
Hill, his wife, Rachel, and four of the couple’s six children were at the couple’s 20-acre ranch when an adult female grizzly and two young bears appeared on the property. Rachel Hill spotted the bears around 7 p.m. when she looked out her bedroom window. She hurried outside, yelling to the children to get inside the house.
Jeremy Hill, who had been in the shower, grabbed his daughter’s .270-caliber rifle, loaded the weapon and ran outside. Hill saw one of the bears climbing up the side of the family’s pig pen. He fired a shot at that grizzly, a 2-year-old male. The two other bears ran into the woods behind the home.
The shot bear tumbled off the fence surrounding the pig pen and ran off, limping slightly, after the other two bears. The family’s dog chased the bear, which turned around and charged at Hill, who was standing by a large basement window under the deck.
“Fearing there was nothing but (him) and a large pane of glass to keep the wounded bear out of his house, Jeremy took aim and fired again,” Douglas’ statement said.
The bullet hit the grizzly and the bear rolled to the ground. It tried to get up, but fell.
Hill thought the bear was dead. He went inside to calm his wife and children and call the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to report the shooting. But Hill noticed that the grizzly was crawling off toward the woods. “Knowing that a wounded grizzly bear posed a significant threat,” Hill fired a final shot, killing the bear, according to Douglas’ account.
Two Idaho Fish and Game officers and a state grizzly bear biologist arrived at Hill’s house within two hours of the incident. Because grizzlies are a federally protected species, their report was forwarded to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The federal charge against Hill was filed in early August.
“Despite not being involved, Douglas is confident that the facts he’s derived are accurate,” his press release said. Douglas did not return phone calls Monday seeking to verify the source of his information.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Rafael Gonzalez declined to talk about the case but noted that “the burden is on us to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
If convicted of unlawfully killing a federally protected species, which is a Class A misdemeanor, Hill faces up to a year in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
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