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Hunter faces charges after killing grizzly in Idaho in apparent mistake

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 20, 2019

A Montana hunter killed a grizzly bear in North Idaho on Tuesday, after apparently mistaking the endangered bruin for a more common black bear.

The man has been charged in state court for killing the grizzly, according to Kara Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The hunter was in the Smith Creek area near the Canadian border, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. After shooting the bear, the man identified it as a grizzly and called IDFG.

The Smith Creek drainage is northwest of Bonners Ferry, near the Porthill border crossing. Black bear hunting is open in that area until Oct. 31.

The grizzly was an adult female and had been collared, said Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator.

She did not have any cubs, Kasworm said.

Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal law. Idaho’s black bear hunting season starts at the end of August. Black bear hunters are expected to know the difference between legal black bears and grizzly bears before shooting.

IDFG is investigating, and the man is cooperating.

Reports of accidental shootings are common. A hunter in Wallace shot and killed a grizzly bear that had been collared and relocated to Montana in October 2015. A grizzly bear was shot and killed near Rose Lake in 2009. Both were cases of mistaken identity.

Last year, a female grizzly with cubs was shot multiple times in an apparent poaching at Spruce Lake, in northern Boundary County.

That case is still under investigation, Kasworm said.

Many human-caused grizzly deaths go unreported. According to one review of grizzly mortality between 1982 and 2017, 17 radio-collared bears died from human causes in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery area. Of those, 10 deaths were reported by the public and seven were not.

According to a 2018 Canadian study, about 88 percent of human-caused grizzly deaths go unreported.

So far this year, regional bear-human encounters and conflicts are down from previous years.

“It’s a good huckleberry year. The bears are up in the huckleberries and not down in the valleys as much,” Kasworm said. “We’ll see, though. This is the time when things start to pick up a little bit as well. Once the huckleberries run their course, there is more opportunity for bears to mix it up with people.”

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