A father and son have been sentenced to jail time, thousands of dollars in fines, and multi-year hunting bans after killing a grizzly bear in Idaho’s Caribou-Targhee National Forest last spring.
Jared and Rex Baum of Ashton, Idaho, were hiking in a densely forested area near Island Park late last March when they opened fire on a sow grizzly with their Ruger-5.7 handguns, allegedly thinking it was a black bear, although no season was open for those either. After shooting the bear at least 12 times, the father and son left the scene and failed to report the incident to Idaho Fish and Game (IDFG).
All grizzlies in the Lower 48 remain protected under the Endangered Species Act. The men might have gotten away with poaching the federally protected bear if the animal hadn’t been previously collared by bear biologists with IDFG.
Shortly after the sow succumbed to her wounds, the radio tracking collar around her neck began to emit mortality signals. On April 9, 2021, IDFG staff honed in on those signals during a routine flight over the area. In the midst of a subsequent investigation, researchers found the dead sow partially submerged in the runoff-laden waters of the Little Warm River. After recovering a bullet from the bear's ribcage, the biologists paid a visit to the sow’s known denning site, where they discovered that her 6- to 8-week-old male cub had died in her absence.
According to a press release recently issued by IDFG, the sow’s carcass was then removed and transported off site for further inspection. X-ray images of her remains revealed 12 bullets and one bullet fragment.
Armed with this information, IDFG put out a press release seeking help from locals and recent visitors to the Island Park area. They wanted to know if anyone had seen or heard anything that might shed more light on the incident. Over in Ashton, Jared Baum got wind of the press release and began to worry. He knew that the grizzly had been collared and quickly threw the handguns that he and his father had used to kill it into a nearby pond.
After ditching their guns, the Baums may have momentarily believed that they’d managed to evade justice. But IDFG investigators were hot on their trail.
The investigators took the case to Google and issued a warrant for any pings from electronic devices that happened to be in or around the scene of the poaching incident around the time of the sow grizzly’s death. The results of that search led them to Jared Baum.
When investigators questioned Baum in November 2021, he admitted to killing what he said he thought was a black bear when he’d initially begun shooting at it. Even if it had been truthful, the admission still would have implicated Baum in a serious crime as no black bear season was open in Idaho in late March when the shooting occurred.
According to IDFG, “Jared then told officers that he had tracked the bear and thought he had shot it forty times as it was running downstream towards the Little Warm River. After Jared saw that it was a grizzly, he said he realized he had shot her too many times and she was going to die, so he finished her.”
During the same interview, he implicated his elderly father in the crime, saying that “he was not alone in shooting the bear and was accompanied by his father Rex Baum.”
A little over a year after shooting the sow grizzly and trying to cover their tracks, Rex and Jared Baum have finally been sentenced for their bad decision.
For his part, Jared was issued a felony charge that carries a lifetime revocation of his hunting privileges, 30 consecutive days in Fremont County Jail, three years probation, and fines in excess of $12,000. His 79-year-old father will spend three days in jail, pay more than $1,000 in fines and penalties, and will see his hunting privileges revoked for 10 years. Neither man will be able to hunt in any of the 48 U.S. states that participate in the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact.