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Idaho Hunter Mistakenly Kills Grizzly: How important is target identification?


Idaho Hunter Mistakenly Kills Grizzly: How important is target identification?

By Rodger Holscher

Every year a handful of Idaho hunters find themselves on the wrong side of the law because of target identification. You hear stories of an elk hunter shooting a moose in units that have both species. Someone with a whitetail tag shooting a mule deer.  Someone shooting a three-point in a two-point only unit. Well now you can add, shooting a grizzly and mistaking it for a black bear.  

On June 10th, 2024, a man in northern Idaho shot what he thought was a nice color phase (brown colored) black bear. Turns out it was a young grizzly bear. This happened in the Panhandle Region of the State and specifically Unit 6. Grizzly bears aren’t populating Unit 6 but some have wandered into that country from time to time.  

As most of you know, grizzly bears have been protected at the state and federal level (in the lower 48 states) since 1975. You can only kill a grizzly bear in self defense (or defense of others). The hunter self-reported the mistake to Fish and Game and has been cooperative with the investigation. The hunter has not been charged with a crime and likely will not, likely because IDFG also misidentified the bear.  

This is a good learning opportunity for all hunters (me included). Last fall I traveled to Unit 6 to fill my whitetail tag and was likely in the same area this hunter was. I had no idea I was in potential grizzly country. Make sure you do your research when going into a new unit and make sure what species you are likely to encounter and what is in season when you are there. If you can not properly identify your target, no shot is the best shot.


“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.” Idaho Fish and Game

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