The U.S. Attorney’s Office has dropped a misdemeanor charge against a Porthill, Idaho, man who shot and killed a grizzly bear in his yard.
Instead, Jeremy M. Hill was issued a noncriminal citation for the May 8 shooting of the 2-year-old male grizzly, and paid a $1,000 fine.
In a statement released Wednesday, Hill said he was thankful that federal charges had been dismissed and said he agreed to pay the fine to avoid putting his wife and six children through the cost and stress of a criminal trial. Last month, he pleaded not guilty to unlawfully taking a federally protected species.
“I shot the grizzly bear because I was fearful for the safety of my family,” said Hill, 33. “I thought I was doing the right thing to protect them. Once I shot the bear, I immediately called Idaho Fish and Game to report the incident.”
U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson said dismissal of the criminal charge was based in part on Hill’s prompt reporting of the shooting.
“The United States Attorney’s Office well understands Mr. Hill is a concerned husband and father who wants to protect his family,” Olson said.
Olson also said that state and federal wildlife officials were unable to establish the location of Hill’s children when three grizzly bears were first sighted in the yard about 40 yards from the Hill home.
Hill’s statement said that his wife, Rachel, first spotted three grizzly bears at the edge of their property, near a pen that contained their children’s 4-H pigs. He said he had last seen four of his children outside playing basketball and was worried about their safety. He ran out onto the deck with a rifle.
When Hill shot the bear closest to the house, the other two ran away, the statement said. The wounded bear started to follow them but then turned toward the house, and Hill said he fired another shot. He said he fired a third shot to kill the wounded bear, knowing it could pose a danger to others.
“I also thought the humane thing to do was to put the wounded bear out of its misery,” Hill’s statement said.
Hill said he’d never seen grizzlies on his property before. The family lives near a main highway in a rural farm community, said Marc Lyons, Hill’s attorney.
The home “is not in the mountain, the wilderness, or where someone would normally expect grizzly bear activity,” Lyons said.
Olson said that anyone who sees a grizzly near their house or campsite should immediately contact wildlife officials. Officials are required to immediately act to remove the bears from populated areas. Olson said the regulations are intended to keep people safe and protect the grizzlies, which are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Hill also thanked community members and elected officials for their support. Boundary County residents raised $19,558 for the Hill family through perpetual bidding on Hill’s daughter’s pig at the 4-H animal auction, and Gov. Butch Otter had sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, asking him to look into the case. A conviction for illegally killing a federally protected species can result in up to a year in prison and fines of up to $50,000.
“We could not ask for better friends, neighbors and supporters,” Hill said.
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