griz

Idaho Fish and Game is investigating the death of a male grizzly bear that was killed near Yellowstone National Park. It was found with a rifle bullet in its side.

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Idaho Fish and Game is investigating the killing of an adult male grizzly bear shot in Idaho near the southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park last week.

Officials are seeking information from the public regarding the incident. A reward is offered in the investigation. Grizzly bears are protected by state and federal law with no hunting season in Idaho.

James Brower, Fish and Game regional communications manager, said the bear had been collared this summer during regular research operations conducted by the regional bear biologist. The collar sent out a mortality signal on Sept. 29 and biologists went to investigate on Oct. 1. Biologists followed a blood trail to a clearing called Coyote Meadows where the bear had been shot. A rifle bullet was recovered from the side of the bear. The Coyote Meadows area is north of Bitch Creek and east of Drummond.

“It’s a 20-year-old bear,” Brower said. “It hasn’t gotten into any trouble. At the time we had him, he was about 500 pounds. That’s a big bear for around here.”

Biologists looked up the bear’s capture history and found that it had been collared before, but the collar had come off.

“It is pretty common for research bears — a big male like that — they don’t wear collars for too terribly long before they lose them,” Brower said. “They fall off typically because they’re fighting or scratch at them. They’re (renowned) fighters, they’re tussling all the time.”

After the bear stays motionless for more than four hours, the collar will send a mortality signal.

“The bear biologist and a technician will go to the area to recover the collar to see if it has fallen off or if the bear has died,” Brower said. “They’ll do a necropsy to discover what the cause of death was.”

Brower said Fish and Game bear biologists are working cooperatively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the investigation. Grizzly bears are still federally protected and listed as a threatened species.

“There’s likely some people who know about this and have some information,” Brower said. “We’d like to figure out what the rest of the story is.”

Anyone with information about the killing is asked to call Fish and Game at 800-632-5999 or 208-525-7290.

The National Park Service estimates there were about 725 grizzly bears in the park and surrounding areas in 2019.

Idaho planned to hold a hunting season for grizzly bears in 2018, but a U.S. District Court judge restored federal protections after ruling the genetic health of the bears remained in doubt. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling in July.