Update: Black Bear Hunter Accidentally Shoots Grizzly after IDFG Staff Misidentification

Update: Black Bear Hunter Accidentally Shoots Grizzly after IDFG Staff Misidentification

Editor’s Note: A few days after the initial press release, IDFG released more information that included a video. According to this updated press release, the hunter submitted this video of the bear on bait to IDFG, expressing concern that the bear was a grizzly. An IDFG staff member then misidentified the bear as a black bear and shared that information with the hunter.

“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 press release stated. “Fish and Game is reviewing its staff’s part in the incident as a personnel matter.”

While the first approximately 30 seconds of the video do indeed show a black bear, it’s very apparent when the young grizzly appears on camera with a distinct shoulder hump, concave face, and smaller, rounded ears.

On June 10, a hunter shot and killed a subadult grizzly bear while black bear hunting in Idaho.

The hunter mistook the grizz for a black bear, but upon investigating the carcass, he realized his mistake and immediately contacted wildlife officials.

According to a press release from Idaho Fish and Game, the bear was shot in unit 6 near the southern end of Idaho’s Panhandle near St. Maries. Grizzlies don’t usually roam this area—they typically inhabit the northernmost land of the panhandle and areas around Yellowstone in the southeastern part of the state.

IDFG Spokesman T.J. Ross said the hunter was given a warning but no citation. Although grizzly bears are protected as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act, the hunter was “extremely cooperative” with the investigation, and agency officials were surprised to learn there was a grizzly in the area.

“That’s an area where we would not expect to see a grizzly bear,” Ross said.

Although it was an unexpected encounter, grizzly bears are known to roam in search of food, especially young adult males like the one shot in this incident.

“Grizzly bears are protected under state and federal law, and bear hunters are responsible for proper identification of their target,” the press release stated. “All hunters are encouraged to review their bear identification skills to avoid mistaken identity.”

Note the word “encouraged” not “required.” States like Montana make it a legal requirement for bear hunters to pass an identification test to distinguish the differences between black bears and grizzly bears to purchase a bear license.

To spot the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear, look for these identifying features:

  • Shoulder hump — grizzlies will have a prominent hump
  • Face profile — black bears have a flat face whereas grizzlies are more concave
  • Ear shape — grizzlies are small and rounded, black bears are longer and almost pointed
  • Claw length — black bear claws typically won’t exceed two inches; grizzly claws will be lighter and two to four inches in length

Never use hair color or body size for identification, as they are not reliable factors. A black bear isn’t always black, and a grizzly bear isn’t always “grizzled” with white-tipped hair. Similarly, a large adult boar black bear can easily out-size a young or female grizzly.

Think you can spot the difference? You can test your knowledge here.

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