By Melissa Davlin, Idaho Reports
A coalition of wildlife groups is asking Idaho Fish and Game and Wyoming Game and Fish Department to require bear identification courses for hunters with black bear tags.
The nine-group coalition includes Friends of the Clearwater, The Humane Society of the United States, Lapwai-based Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, and Hailey-based Western Watersheds Project.
“From 2010 to 2022, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team identified 14 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone region that were killed because of mistaken identity, but a total of 113 mortalities remain ‘under investigation,’” the coalition said in a Thursday press release. “Detailed information on these mortalities is not available to the public and the occurrence of grizzly bears being killed by black bear hunters is likely higher than reported.”
Unlike Wyoming and Idaho, Montana mandates hunters with bear tags take a bear identification course. Hunters must pass the test with an 80 percent or higher to receive their black bear tag.
Roger Phillips, public information officer for Idaho Fish and Game, said the agency does provide resources online to educate hunters on the difference between black and grizzly bears, and while mix-ups happen in Idaho, they’re rare.
“Every hunter needs to know his or her target,” Phillips said. And for those who do inadvertently shoot a grizzly, “they can absolutely be cited for that.”
In May, a Wyoming man was charged with shooting a grizzly bear outside Yellowstone National Park after he mistook the animal for a black bear. According to KTVQ, his trial is set for October.
Also in May, the State of Idaho sent a notice of its intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over the Biden Administration’s failure to remove grizzly bears from the endangered species list.