F&G concludes investigation in Panhandle Region grizzly bear shooting
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: June 19, 2024

dditional details are available surrounding the grizzly bear killed on June 10 in Unit 6

Idaho Fish and Game recently released information about a grizzly bear mistaken for a black bear and killed on June 10 in Unit 6.

After concluding its investigation, Fish and Game officials found the hunter involved was hunting over a legal black bear bait site, and due to extenuating circumstances, no citation was issued. The site was located on U.S. Forest Service land near the Lower St. Joe River, roughly five miles from the town of St. Maries. The bear was in an area not commonly used by grizzly bears in the Panhandle. The incident is an example of how young male grizzlies may wander long distances and into areas where people don’t expect to encounter them.

Two days prior to the incident, the hunter recorded video of the bear at the bait site and sent it to Fish and Game for review. The hunter expressed concern that the bear was a grizzly and not a black bear. Unfortunately, Fish and Game staff misidentified the young bear as a black bear because it lacked some common features of a grizzly, and shared that misidentification with the hunter.

After shooting the bear and then identifying it at the scene as a grizzly, the hunter immediately contacted Fish and Game and fully cooperated with the investigation.

Fish and Game regrets the mistake made by its staff, the undue stress the situation caused for the hunter and the loss of the grizzly bear. Fish and Game is reviewing its staff’s part in the incident as a personnel matter.

The incident underscores the importance of all hunters, including Fish and Game staff, being capable and confident in properly identifying species and their target prior to shooting. Size and color of the animal are not reliable indicators of species; black bears can be brown, and grizzly bears can be black. It’s best to look at multiple features to make the right call. Grizzly bears typically have short, rounded ears, a dished facial profile, a prominent shoulder hump and 2 to 4 inch long claws.

A few important reminders:

  • Most of Idaho’s grizzly bear populations are in the northern Panhandle area and the area in and around Yellowstone National Park in Eastern Idaho. But young male grizzlies may wander long distances and into areas where people don’t expect to encounter them. These young male bears typically wander through an area, but do not remain there.
  • Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal law, and bear hunters are responsible for proper identification of their target. All hunters are encouraged to review their bear identification skills to avoid mistaken identity.
  • Now is as good of a time as any to freshen up on your bear identification skills and your ability to know the difference between a defensive and predatory encounter by using our online resources.

Please contact the Panhandle Regional office at (208) 769-1414 with any questions.

Follow us on the Panhandle Region Facebook page for regular updates and news.

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