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What’s more dangerous: a charging grizzly bear or the U.S. Secretary of the Interior? For an Idaho man, Ken Salazar might be a bigger threat. Jeremy M. Hill of Boundary County, Idaho, has been arraigned on federal charges for unlawfully killing a grizzly bear in his yard. Hill’s home is in northern Idaho near the Canadian border and is between two federal grizzly bear recovery zones – the Selkirk zone to the west and Cabinet-Yaak zone to the east. Hill’s problems began last May . . .

when a family of three Ursus arctos took a walk and ended up on his property, with an interest in his children’s 4H pigs. Several of Hill’s children were playing outside, an estimated 40 yards from where the bears showed up. Hill’s wife spotted the bears and screamed for the children to get in the house.

The commotion caught Hill’s attention and he spotted one of the bears climbing halfway up the side of the pig pen. Grabbing his rifle and three cartridges (only three?), he ran outside and fired a single shot at the closest bear, knocking him to the ground. The sound of the rifle shot sent the other two bears scattering into the forest behind the house.

The wounded bear got up and ran off with a slight limp. Hill’s dog headed for the wounded bear. Hill says the bear turned and charged straight towards him. Hill took aim and shot the bear a second time, knocking the bear down again.

Hill went inside to call the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. But before he made the call, he looked outside and saw the bear was trying to crawl back to the woods. Hill took up the rifle again and walked back to the bear, now not moving—unsure if it was dead or alive—and fired a final shot, putting the bear out of his misery.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game investigated. They decided that the killing was justified. As an endangered species was involved in the incident, the report was passed on to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who began their investigation about a month later. The USFWS didn’t agree with the state’s findings. They filed federal criminal charges against Hill on Aug. 8. He faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $50,000.

Hill pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene. His trial is scheduled for Oct. 4, 2011. Idaho Governor “Butch” Otter has appealed to Secretary Salazar, and other Idaho politicians have expressed their support for Mr. Hill.

Did Hill have other options than firing the first shot? Who knows? We weren’t there. But if the story is even close to accurate for the distance the bears were to his children, there wasn’t much time to make a decision. Bears can run 30 to 35 MPH for short periods. That’s roughly 45 feet per second. At 40 yards away, it would take the bear 2.7 seconds to cover the distance to his kids.

Besides, what happened to innocent until proven guilty and innocent once proven innocent? Maybe we should put common sense and justice on the endangered species list.

09/07/2011 UPDATE:  Federal prosecutors dropped the charges against Hill.  As part of a deal, Hill agreed his actions violated a regulation of the Endangered Species Act and paid a $1,000 fine.

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  1. His first mistake was reporting it in the first place. If he has enough land for 4 pigs, he has enough to bury a bear carcass with out anyone knowing.

    That said, its a shame that such a majestic animal had to lose its life. I don’t disparge Mr. Hill for doing what he did. I would have done what ever it took, had my kids or dog been in danger.

    Ideally, he would have had bear spray or a bear popper just as readily available as his rifle for such an emergency. When you live in that type of environment, comming across a bear should be something you just plan for.

  2. I believe the correct response would be “Shoot, shovel and shut-up.” I learned that term in college, from a park resource management major, who wanted to be a ranger.

  3. Disagree, guys. Where did this “shoot, shovel, shut up” canard come from anyway? I know a lot of you don’t like law enforcement, but the risk of getting made after you’ve buried the evidence (be it bear or burglar) makes it not worth it.

    If Mr. Hill got found out later, there’d be hell to pay. He did the right thing. It’s unfortunate he has to fight for his freedom now. But fight he should.

    • Damned if you do Damned if you don’t. But personally shoot shovel and shut up works pretty well when no one else can report it missing. The Bears family isn’t going to file a missing bear report. People always go “If he was innocent, he would have turned himself in” but then stories like this pop up and the government goes after innocent people. Even if he wins this case, he loses. Legal fees add up fast and they won’t let you have a public defender if you have assets. Some bureaucrat makes your life miserable for months or years and they get a good performance review while you go into bankruptcy.

      • How about “shoot, BBQ, eat”? That way, if they want to find evidence of the crime, they’d have to dig through your septic system.

  4. From all appearances this guy did everything right. The feds are going to scare people into not reporting legitimate events. I WANT to do the right thing and report things to the proper authorities but I’d think twice after this.

    There’s been a lot of public support for the ‘victim’, Mr. Hill. He’s received letters of support from the Governor and Senators and there’s a defense fund. I’m glad he lives in a stand up state.

    • “The feds are going to scare people into not reporting legitimate events.”

      Yes. The larger problem, as we see with Gunwalker, is a near total lack of accountability. Heaven help you if the wrong pencil pusher takes a dislike to you; they have all the time in the world and the resources to make your life hell and they stand to lose nothing if it turns out you weren’t in the wrong.

  5. Penn and Teller did an interesting episode of their show Bullsh*t!, where they analyzed the effects of the Endangered Species Act. According to their research, exactly ZERO species have been saved by the act. But the human/property costs have been staggering.

    My take on this is that it’s a question regarding the value/sanctity of life. Many of those in the “animal rights”/ecology movements see life and both precious and sacred. Trouble is, they believe that animals are more noble than humans, and therefore their lives are worth MORE than humans. Bureaucrats tend to see things in black and white terms, especially those who are far removed from the real world situation in question. Add into the mix poorly-written, well-intentioned laws and an Executive Branch drunk on power, and you have a recipe for disaster.

    • Whether poorly written or not (most are), laws are black and white. That’s the way the attorney’s who write them like it. I’m not defending the actions of USFW but if you think the “Executive Branch” ordered the USFW to prosecute this dude you have no idea how the “real world” works. Oh yeah, depending on Penn and Teller for your research actually explains a lot about this post…

      • Um…Gage? You there? Let’s talk about reading for context, shall we? I’m aware (from your other comments on the site) that you’re not what you’d call a fan of my writing. Fair enough. I’ve enjoyed your comments. Perhaps we’re both wrong. But I didn’t pen this post. I only commented on it. From your comment, it sounds as if you’re pillorying me (again), this time for something I didn’t write. (Story of my life.) Still, it is fun to sit here and rub your face in your mistakes, so there is that.

        I found the Penn & Teller show interesting and informational. But I do my own research, thank you very much. And I stand by my comments on the “poorly written” Endangered Species Act. “Well-intentioned” is about as far as I’m willing to go in praise of that legislation. It’s been used, far too many times, to contravene personal property rights and to kill business. Look at what’s happened to the farmers in California over the enforcement of the law. Insane.

        Oh, and by the way, I was married to someone for 14 years who spent years working on the Hill as a Congressional staffer. Would you like to know who actually WRITES the laws these ass clowns pass off as their own? Lobbyists and Congressional staffers. Average age of your typical Congressional staff? 26. Oh, sure, there’s always a senior staffer with a Law degree hanging about there somewhere, and certainly, the document gets a once-over to make sure no joker put in some law outlawing celibacy for Congressional pages, but generally speaking we don’t exactly have our Best and Brightest writing these things. Given that NOBODY actually read the entire ObamaCare bill before they forced a vote in both chambers, your statement that “most laws are black and white” is laughably naive. According to my ex, laws are written to be purposefully vague, so that the agency charged with enforcing the law can twist it’s meaning to use as a cudgel against anyone impertinent to stand up to them.

        But for the record, I’m certain that Obama did NOT pick up the local paper one fine day and say, “hey…here’s a guy who shot a bear in self defense. Let’s go put him in jail. Nobody’s THAT stupid who gets to the Oval Office. (Well…there was Carter, but still…)

        No, what I believe happened was that Obama (an ideologue) put fellow ideologues in positions of power. (Say “Interior Secretary.” I knew you could.) The Secretaries hire like-minded toadies under-secretaries, assistants to the secretaries, and regional managers. They all sing from the same hymnal. Many of these jobs are “patronage gigs” – the kinds of jobs that go to people who supported the candidate and helped get him elected. Frequently, hires are drawn from the special-interest groups that most closely align with the job, so for instance, you’d expect Obama to hire people from the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Rainforest Alliance, and The Center for Science in the Public Interest to fill positions at the EPA, Interior, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife “Service.” Many of these people have no prior public sector experience – heretofore, they’ve been NGO-bound. In their insular world, things are black and white. Rules are meant to be followed to the letter. That sort of thing. So you get some policy wonk who’s a little full of himself, and he’s trying to make a name by getting a high-profile win. He wants to be able to slip on the ol’ Birkenstocks and tell his peers what a blow he struck for animal rights over brie and particularly piquant little Riesling over the holiday weekend. So he throws the book at some poor bastard who’s got literally 2.5 seconds to make a shoot/no shoot decision with his kids’ lives hanging in the balance. Oh, and remember, the STATE Fish and Game guys called this a righteous kill. AND he complied with every law you can think of. He coulda buried the evidence and no one would be the wiser – but he’s a bloody Boy Scout. And because some bureaucrat wants to hang this poor schlub’s scalp on his trophy wall in his den (paneled with only renewable, recycled lumber), our victim faces a $50K fine and years in the slammer.

        THAT, Gage, is how the real world works. At least, while we suffer through what I fervently hope is the final year and a half of the ObamaNation.

        So don’t be so quick to excuse the Executive Branch (which, by the way, encompasses the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, et all.) Remember, the Interior Secretary has but to pick up the phone, give His Man In Idaho a jingle, and tell him to lay off. That’s all it would take. Over. Done. Finito. But the ideologues don’t want it that way. So we have to make a Federal Case out of it in the press, in the hope that this guy will see REAL justice.

  6. Bureaucrats tend to see things in black and white terms

    The federal bureucracy tends to see things in red, black and white terms. That would be a field of red, a circle of white and a black swastika in the middle.

  7. Sorry, I don’t have the energy anymore to pontificate about the justifiable actions of the peasants being persecuted by the gub’ment.

  8. Umm, maybe my browser is not rendering that story properly. In my browser, it says that he made the first shot on an endangered animal IN DEFENSE OF LIVESTOCK.

    (He also wounded a friggin grizzly while his children were in the yard. We are not dealing with a genius.)

    Farmers are responsible for knowing what they can and can’t shoot in defense of crops and stock. Pig ownership does not give you license to shoot at any endangered species that comes in your yard. Neither does child ownership, by the way.

    (If it did, every poacher would just carry a kid or a pig around.)

    Sorry folks, not self defense and not “governments gone wild”. Just a law, broken by a dumbass.

    • “Child ownership”???

      Man, it sounds like you wouldn’t defend a child from a bear. Is that what you are saying? If so, you are far worse than a dumbass.

      I wager you for a coward when not behind your keyboard.

  9. Howa, you should get a job as one of these government “Bureaucrats”, because you would fit right in. This farmer did everything right (except for ratting himself out) and still got screwed. Some good ole bear meat on the BBQ sounds good right about now.

    • Not sure what about shooting an endangered animal to protect a pig is “right”, but I guess that in the good old USA nothing is more sacred than the right to do whatever the heck you feel like.

      • You are actually more right than you know, except that I would add, “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” I fail to see how anyone is hurt by the death of a single grizzly bear.

      • He felt it was a danger to his family. His family was outside in the yard. The bears were within that yard. The Idaho F&G cleared him. That’s not quite the same as just protecting your pigs.

      • Howa, you keep referring to protecting the “pig”, and I don’t care if it’s a pet mouse or chicken or gold fish. I’ll try to be fair now. Any animal that came on my property would have gotten shot if it attacked anything or anyone on my property.

  10. I wouldn’t have reported it. Legal or not, if something was threatening my livestock I’d put it down. Saying he should have let it kill his pigs is easy this far removed, until it’s YOUR livelihood an endangered animal is threatening.

  11. Oh no, A giant Beer is on my property! Guess I should go check the federal regs to see if I’m allowed to protect myself, my family or my property. At what point is it ok to protect yourself from Bureaucrats? I think this is a legitimate question because eventually people will start fighting back with violence instead of lawyers. I don’t see it happening in the next 5-10 years but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened in my life time (about the next 50 years).

    • It’s already happened, ScottA, at Ruby Ridge and Waco. The end result was the McVeigh bombing at Oklahoma City. I wish I could say that the worst is over, but I can’t.

      • I mean outside of isolated incidents. You get a small town to fight back are the feds going to bomb it? If they do, you get a few bigger towns fighting back. Isolated incidents don’t mean much but it doesn’t take too many to start a revolution. I’d rather resolve this with more liberty and less violence through the courts but it seems our system rather push the limits.

    • There’s your U.S. Department of (in)Justice – spending valuable resources to make a plea deal and wrest a fine from a guy who did nothing wrong, so they can mark it in the “Win” column and rattle their sabres at all who would dare shoot an unarmed bear just to save some human lives.

      New slogan for the DoJ: “Reducing the Deficit, one Thousand Dollar Fine at a Time!”

      • Sadly it’s a win for him too. I got charged with a “crime” and it was cheaper to pay the fine than pay a lawyer. So I get off with nothing (because I wasn’t actually convicted) and they still get the “win”. I tried to fight it with a public defender but the judge wouldn’t let me get one because I had money saved and would have to use that before the court would give me a lawyer.

  12. The USA is truly another planet.

    WOUNDING A GRIZZLY is not a way of making yourself more safe from said grizzly. It is a way of being a stupid asshole.

    1) See benign bear, interested in livestock
    2) Break law to wound bear, also provoking an attack
    3) Kill bear, claim that the attack justified the wounding

    Nobody sees broken logic there?

    Beware of invoking such fuzzy logic when using firearms against people or animals. You don’t just have to abide by the laws that you agree with.

    • I fail to follow your logic.

      1) The largest, most dangerous land predator in North America was in his yard, threatening his family.

      2) He shot and killed the predator.

      Makes sense to me.

      • It did not say that the bear was threatening his family. No human was threatened until he first wounded the bear.

        When he took it upon himself to wound a grizzly that was in the yard with his children, the grizzly had been threatening his *Pigs*.

        He killed an endangered animal because it was threatening a pig.

        Being near a bear does not give you license to kill it at will.

        Using the same logic, I could shoot every policeman and soldier who comes on my land. They are, after all, carrying loaded weapons!

        It’s preposterous, and allowing yourself to live in a fuzzy fantasy world in which you invent justifications for shooting animals or people can put you in prison.

        • @Howa – if the facts are correct in this story, you might have missed that the grizzly was 2.7 seconds away from his children – on his own property. If I was Hill I wouldn’t try and second guess if pigs are more appealing than children.

  13. The article did not say that the bear was threatening his family. No human was threatened until he first wounded the bear.

    When he took it upon himself to wound a grizzly, it had been threatening his *Pigs*.

    He killed an endangered animal because it was threatening a pig.

    You (or your unsupervised children, left outdoors in grizzly country near a pig pen) being *near* a bear does not give you license to kill that bear at will.

    Using the same logic, I could shoot every policeman and soldier who comes on my land. They are, after all, carrying loaded weapons!

    It’s preposterous, and allowing yourself to live in a fuzzy fantasy world in which you invent justifications for shooting animals or people can put you in a real world called prison.

  14. Howa – you got any real world experience with bears? They were way too close to the kids to be discounted. They are scary fast. I wish his first shot had done the job, but he was probably scared.

    The idea of protecting animals over people is just messed up. If these things are so scarce down there, I say let the animal huggers come up here and hug a grizzly or two and take ‘em down there. That is if they survive the encounter. They can take a cue from Timothy Treadwell’s playbook too.


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