Printed on: September 25, 2013

Grizzly bear is killed in Island Park

By ALEX STUCKEY
astuckey@postregister.com

Two young grizzly bears are motherless after an Island Park resident shot and killed a female grizzly almost two weeks ago.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game announced the shooting in a Tuesday news release. This is the second grizzly killed in the Island Park area in a month.

On Sept. 12, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began investigating the bear's death. Gregg Losinski, Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman, was unsure when the bear was killed.

Because the incident is under investigation by the enforcement branch of the Fish and Wildlife Service, no other details are being released at this time.

On Aug. 23, Frank Molle shot and killed a bear in the Shotgun Valley area. It is unclear whether Molle was acting in self-defense, but according to previous reports, a grizzly previously visited the property where Molle is a caretaker and tore down a bird feeder to eat the seeds. Molle was carrying a high-powered rifle while performing chores that night because of the earlier bear activity. That incident also is under investigation by the Fish and Wildlife Service.

If either Molle or the unnamed Island Park resident were not acting in self-defense, they could be charged with a federal crime.

"Because the grizzly bear is federally protected in the Lower 48 states as a threatened species, it is a violation of the Endangered Species Act to shoot one, except in self defense and defense of others during an imminent attack," according to information from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Penalties for shooting a grizzly include up to six months in prison and a $100,000 fine.

The yearlings orphaned by this month's shooting are in good shape and weigh at least 100 pounds, said Bryan Aber, large carnivore biologist for the Fish and Game.

As long as the yearlings stay away from humans, Aber said, they should be able to enter hibernation successfully.

The yearlings may be relocated if conflicts occur, but Aber said their best opportunity to survive is to remain in their natural habitat.

Two other grizzly bear-human encounters have occurred in Island Park in the past two months.

On Aug. 15, two Bureau of Land Management contract technicians were injured bya grizzly. The bear charged the technicians after they startled it. One man was bitten on his thigh and backside, and the other had minor injuries to his hand.

On July 29, Brett Panting, a wildlife technician for the Wildlife Conservation Society, was bitten. The bear tore off 80 percent of Panting's biceps on one arm. It took seven layers of stitches to close the wound, Panting said.

Losinski said Fish and Game is always educating Island Park residents on how to deal with bears because of the high population of black and grizzly bears in the area.

"(These incidents are) an indication we can never stop educating the public about dealing with bears," he said.

Reporter Alex Stuckey can be reached at 542-6755.