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Hunter asks before killing ‘black bear’ in Idaho. Officials say they misidentified it.

File photo of a grizzly bear. Wildlife officials wrongly identified a grizzly as a black bear in the Idaho Panhandle region. A hunter then killed it, officials said. | Jim Peach, National Park Service
ST. MARIES (Idaho Statesman) — Wildlife officials said they misidentified a federally protected grizzly bear as a black bear before an Idaho hunter killed it.
A worried hunter sent videos to Idaho Game and Fish of a young bear at a bait site on June 8 in the Panhandle region, the wildlife agency said in a June 18 news release.

The hunter was on U.S. Forest Service land, about 5 miles from St. Maries, officials said.
He was concerned the animal was a grizzly, so he asked wildlife staff to identify it before shooting it, officials said.
The animal has been listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 1975 in the lower 48 states, making it illegal to “harm, harass or kill these bears, except in cases of self defense or the defense of others.”
However, state officials are pushing to delist the animal from federal protection in Idaho.
Wildlife staff reviewed the videos and said the animal was a black bear “because it lacked some common features of a grizzly,” officials said.
It was also in an area where grizzly bears aren’t commonly found in, officials said. The hunter killed the young bear two days later, then realized it was a grizzly, officials said.
He contacted the wildlife agency, cooperated with the investigation and will not be cited, officials said.
Now, Fish and Game is “reviewing its staff’s part in the incident as a personnel matter.”
“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,” the department said.
The agency is also reminding hunters that a young grizzly may wander into an area they may not be expected to be found in.
Conservation groups disapprove of the use of bear-baiting where grizzlies live.
Bait is a substance that is used to attract big game animals. Permitted hunters are only legally allowed to bait black bears in Idaho, according to wildlife officials. But this poses a problem when a young grizzly bear wanders into an area it isn’t typically seen in and is attracted to the bait.
Multiple environmental groups, including Western Watersheds Project, appealed a decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that bear baiting didn’t harm grizzlies in Idaho and Wyoming national forests.
he groups argued for more regulations but lost the appeal.
“These were exactly the types of tragic grizzly killings we were hoping to avoid through our lawsuit for the federal agencies to consider whether bear baiting should be allowed in grizzly bear habitat,” Western Watersheds Project’s Executive Director Erik Molvar said in a June 20 news release.
“IDFG wants to see grizzly bears delisted and claims that they can manage the species. How can they manage grizzly bears if they can’t even identify one?” said Lizzy Pennock, an attorney at WildEarth Guardians.
Now, officials are warning other hunters to review their bear identification skills.
A grizzly bear can be spotted by its short, rounded ears, shoulder hump, long claws and dished (concave) face profile, wildlife officials said.
A black bear has tall ears, a straight face profile, no shoulder hump and shorter claws.
The sizing and coloring of a bear are not reliable ways to determine the difference between the two, wildlife officials said.
Bears vary in size at different ages and in different physical conditions, making it difficult to identify a bear based on size alone, officials said.
Both bears also vary in color. A black bear can be blonde, cinnamon or black while a grizzly bear can have nearly black coloring.
Bear attacks in the U.S. are rare, according to the National Park Service. In most attacks, bears are trying to defend their food, cubs or space.
There are steps people can take to help prevent a bear encounter from becoming a bear attack.

Identify yourself: Talk calmly and slowly wave your arms. This can help the bear realize you’re a human and nonthreatening.
Stay calm: Bears usually don’t want to attack; they want to be left alone. Talk slowly and with a low voice to the bear.
Don’t scream: Screaming could trigger an attack.
Pick up small children: Don’t let kids run away from the bear. It could think they’re small prey.
Hike in groups: A group is noisier and smellier, the National Park Service said. Bears like to keep their distance from groups of people.
Make yourself look big: Move to higher ground and stand tall. Don’t make any sudden movements.
Don’t drop your bag: A bag on your back can keep a bear from accessing food, and it can provide protection.
Walk away slowly: Move sideways so you appear less threatening to the bear. This also lets you keep an eye out.
Again, don’t run: Bears will chase you, just like a dog would.
Don’t climb trees: Grizzlies and black bears can also climb.

The post Hunter asks before killing ‘black bear’ in Idaho. Officials say they misidentified it. appeared first on East Idaho News.

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