Idaho congressional delegation behaves as expected on grizzly bears

Risch, Crapo, Labrador introduce bill to allow people to defend themselves during grizzly bear attacks — a cynical redundancy! They already can.

We knew Idaho’s congressional delegation would try to make hay over the recent death of one of two bear hunters who wounded a grizzly bear, tracked it and was killed when it charged.

They have introduced legislation to amend the Endangered Species Act to let people kill grizzly bears in self-defense situations. A great idea?  Yes, of course.  The trouble is the ESA already allows self defense killing because this kind of thing has happened in the past, but these politicians probably figure that the average citizen does not know this.  So, they will make some headlines and maybe get a few contributions, and they hope it will also make people not like the ESA which allowed grizzlies to kill people with impunity.

Louisa Willcox, long time grizzly bear expert at NRDC is bemused by their action. Why don’t they do some legislastion that would reduce conflicts between bears and people, so both will live? She asks a redundant question too.  A grizzly bear attack is useful for their political agenda, why would they want to reduce the likelihood?

New Grizzly Legislation: The Department of Redundancy Department. By Louisa Willcox.  Saving Wildlife and Wild Places. NRDC Switchboard.



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  1. Mike Avatar

    What Idaho should do is pass legislation requiring an IQ test before buying a weapon and moving next to national forest land.

    1. Harley Avatar

      Actually, that IQ test would be well applied to a lot of things in life…

  2. Rita K. Sharpe Avatar
    Rita K. Sharpe

    Why don’t we just enfore the laws that we are alredy have?We all know we can defend ourselves.I hate electon years and everyone is vying for brownie points.

  3. Daniel Berg Avatar
    Daniel Berg

    This type of stuff should just be flat out insulting to the majority of Idaho voters.

    It’s one thing to assume that people aren’t fully versed in the laws surrounding the ESA, and another thing to actually introduce legislation that duplicates an existing law just to whip up support among your constituency. The act screams “My constituents are so ignorant that anything I do, no matter how ridiculous, will earn me support as long as it appears to be anti-predator, or anti-environment in general.

  4. WM Avatar

    Anybody actually see the proposed language changes and what would be different on the ground?

    It might be prudent to reserve judgement until we know the facts and how things would change, if at all – exactly.

    This kind of reminds me of the recently proposed WA wolf management plan (and WA endangered species statute) and its narrow distinction between the illegality of killing a state endangered wolf stalking your pet and actually attacking it. Seems to me it can under certain circumstances be nearly a distinction without a difference, since the time it takes one or more wolves to close the distance from being a stalk to an all out attack can be as short as one to two seconds. The question is how do you then respond when it may already be too late. On one hand, act too soon and you get charged with an infraction that could be expensive to pay/defend, and if you act too late, you might have one or more dead pets, AND have to explain your actions, as well as be second guessed by someone, a government enforcement official/prosecutor not there anyway.

    Wonder if this might be some of the motivation for the grizzly self-defense matter being revisited? Don’t know, just thinking outloud. It will continue to be controversial no matter where the line is drawn.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan


      There is an article in the Spokesman Review about this, it appears that their new bill does not make much of a change, maybe none at all. In the article, “Lindsay Nothern, spokesman for Crapo in Boise, said, “This just basically adds some more language to further bolster the self-defense language that’s in the ESA. I wouldn’t call it a major change in the law.” Of course, the two pieces of legislation would have to be compared line by line and by meaning to be sure.

      At lot of this has to do with another grizzly bear case where a Boundary County property owner shot 3 Selkirk ecosystem grizzlies when they came onto his property. He said he was protecting his children. USFWS didn’t believe him and charged him. The local right wingers went nuts, and the Idaho delegation fanned the flames. The guy ended up having some of the charged dropped.

      1. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate

        If you are talking about the Jeremy Hill case, I think he only shot one. Was there another case?

        1. Daniel Berg Avatar
          Daniel Berg

          In the comment section of the Spokesman article someone mentioned that it was a sow that was shot who had two cubs.

          1. wolf moderate Avatar
            wolf moderate

            Yeah, I think he shot the sow, so you could say that he killed the other 2 grizzlies indirectly…

          2. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            The bear that was killed was one of the sow’s two, two-year old offspring. The sow and other two year old were not shot.

        2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          Wolf Moderate and all,

          Hill shot the sow and the cubs escaped. The news media reports are so one sided it is hard to tell what happened. Supposedly 3 grizzlies came into “yard” where his children were playing basketball. Sounds bad for the children, but how big was the yard? Was it 1/3 acre or 20 acres? How far away were the children 50 feet or 200 yards? Did the bears approach the children, or were they just passing by at some distance?

          Yes seems to me that Hill had a perfect right to kill the bear on one hand, or maybe he should have been prosecuted to the full extent. It depends entirely on the answers to these questions.

          It’s funny how small tracts can be “ranches,” and ranches can become mere “yards” depending on what the speaker is implying.

          1. CL Avatar

            He shot one of the 2 year olds, as stated above,not the sow. He owns 40 acres that are not located in the “Recovery Zone”.
            The article at the top, that started this conversation, is another incident here in Boundary county. Not Hill’s. He was not prosecuted, and should not have been.
            – – – –
            Note that I replied further down because there was not room for a comment here. Webmaster.

          2. Mark Gamblin (IDFG) Avatar
            Mark Gamblin (IDFG)

            For the record, the adult sow was NOT shot. The bear that was killed was one of her two 2-year old offspring.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Here is Jeremy Hill statement about the settlement on the case, which seems to be pretty even handed, given the uproar and the attempt by right wingers to fan the flames.

    The questions I asked above are still not answered. What is “close,” and so on?

    1. CL Avatar

      It seems for you to satisfy yourself you’ll need to talk with U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    CL, thanks for the information.

    So Jeremy Hill’s “yard,” where the bears appeared, was 40 acres, if we understand you.

    Few Americans think of 40 acres as a “yard” for a home. That’s because most single family dwellings sit on a half acre or less. By saying “yard,” most people will envision that 3 grizzly bears showed up on a piece of property that is only a third of an acre, up to perhaps a couple acres, certainly not 40 acres. To most Americans, 40 acres would be a farm, or if not cultivated, an acreage.

    We know that Hill’s incident is not the same one as the post was about. We got into talking about Hill because it was suggested that the Idaho congressional delegation, in the their new bill (which is not new at all) was responding to the Hill controversy as much, and maybe more, than the incident where the black bear hunters wounded and cornered a grizzly bear.

    I am not condemning Hill for what he did necessarily, but I am condemning the Idaho congressionals for stiring the pot of controversy — by coming up with a “solution” that already is on the books and actively used.

  7. Nota Avatar

    Next thing ya know, they’ll wanna make it illegal to charge Rex Rammell with any crimes in the state of Ideeho (or speak his name in vain for that matter).


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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