Man Kills Grizzly, Fights For His Freedom In Court

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 11 months ago

In what could masquerade as a sad Orwellian novel if it weren’t true, an Idaho man defended his family from a potential grizzly bear attack, and is now in court defending his freedom.

A man charged with unlawfully shooting and killing a grizzly bear had so many supporters at his arraignment Tuesday in federal court that the judge had to move the hearing to a larger courtroom.

Even there, every seat was taken as his family, friends and neighbors, young and old, squeezed in.

Jeremy M. Hill, 33, pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court to killing the animal with a rifle on his 20-acre property near Porthill, Idaho, at the Canadian border. He lives five miles from the closest grizzly bear recovery zone.

The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act, and protected by federal law. Hill’s charge is a misdemeanor.

Magistrate Judge Candy Dale set trial, at least for now, for Oct. 4.

Hill has declined comment. His lawyer, Marc Lyons of Coeur d’Alene, said he plans to defend Hill on the basis of self-defense and protection of family.

Following the hearing, his father, Mike Hill, of Athol, said, “This whole thing is a waste of taxpayer money.”

He said his son was concerned for the safety of his children playing outside when a mother grizzly and two cubs wandered onto his property on May 8.

Jeremy Hill has six kids, ranging in age from 14 years old to 10 months old. At least five were home when the grizzly was killed, Mike Hill said.

The bears had gone after some pigs in a pen that the kids had been raising, Mike Hill said.

He said his son shot one of the bears, then called authorities to notify them of the kill. The other two bears ran off.

He said his son could have just buried the animal and not said anything to law enforcement. He said his son is being penalized for coming forward.

State Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, attended the hearing in full support of Jeremy Hill.

“The charges are simply unjust,” she said following the hearing. “Hopefully common sense will prevail. It’s clearly an issue of protecting the family.”

She predicted that punishing someone who reported killing a grizzly will damage government efforts to protect the animals.

She said nearly $20,000 was raised by community members for Hill’s defense.

Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho was asked about the case while appearing in Sandpoint on Tuesday.

While Labrador said he needed to be careful in dealing with the prosecutorial side of things, he did have this to say:

“Clearly, we have a problem with the ESA when situations like this happen.” He later added, “We’re doing everything we can to make sure this man is treated fairly.”

Based on a subsequent report, it isn’t clear whether it was Jeremy Hill or one of his sons who killed the bear, or if it was the mother or a cub.  It doesn’t matter.  There is a lot of local support for Jeremy, and in fact, Idaho Governor Butch Otter is appealing to Obama to look into the facts of the case.

It’s ridiculous that it has gotten this far.  The fact of the matter is that regardless of whether the federal government comes to its senses now or soon, some federal prosecutor (U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson?) made the sophomoric decision to carry this case forward.  How embarrassing this decision must be for this attorney.

It is said that exception makes bad law.  Perhaps.  But failure to address the exception makes for bad justice.  Jeremy isn’t a poacher hunting bear in this area.  He is a father and husband, defending his children and wife.  It hurts progressives to hear it, but man is made in God’s image.  Animals are not.  The only evil that could possibly have happened that day would have been if Jeremy had failed to defend his family.

When the framework for righteousness is found in the myriad rules and regulations that pass through the Federal Register every day as lawyers promulgate an increasingly burdensome bureaucracy on a hapless American public, America has lost its way, and has forgotten what true righteousness is all about.  The justification for regulations has become deonotological, needing no foundation outside themselves, and the means has become the end without regard for consequences or affect.  And it is all without heart or soul.

  • Jim Harris

    This is not the first time this has happened. A similar event occurred in Wyoming about 10+ years ago. The man spent many years defending against a similar stupid charge; he finally won, but at great cost.

    The west needs to find a way to regain control of it’s own territory instead of being under the dictatorship of the Dept of Interior and other federal agencies. They are are inhabited by eco-nuts, who care nada for the people who live there.

  • Greg


    When one lives in “Grizzly Country”…they should have a mind-set of awareness to the fact they are in “Grizzly Country”. Just as other folks who live in the country or who live in the city who choose to exercise their constitutionally-protected, individual right to keep and bear arms,there are legal guidelines that one must follow when they choose to take action to protect themselves or others against a threat.

    After taking action in one of these situations, there are always those who “Monday Morning Quarterback” the events leading up to the situation,the actions of the person who had to take the actions that they did, and then make judgement on the person who took the action. In the end one would hope that those who are responsible for making the decision on whether or not the case deserves to be charged criminally, take into consideration the totality of the circumstances.

    People are always quick to point fingers and place blame upon law enforcement officers in this country whenever they use deadly force,usually
    without knowing the facts leading up to, and during the actual incident.

    As in police shootings where someone’s life is taken,the actions taken by someone who chooses to kill a Grizzly Bear in their backyard,can expect to have their actions scrutinized as well.

    The fact that a bear is chasing livestock,the center of it’s attention,does not
    justify the shooting of the animal. The government has measures in place to
    compensate livestock owners for their loss to endangered species, the same as the wolf situation in Idaho and other states.

    The fact that a bear in “Grizzly Country” wanders into someone’s yard, does not justify one to shoot the bear,even when children are present. If there is time to retrieve a firearm and return to the yard, there was certainly time for the kids to slowly head towards the house.

    Ideally if Mr. Hill had obtained his firearm, stood by while his children left the yard and wet into the home,the situation would not be what it is today.

    Living in “Grizzly Country” requires one to have a plan in place prior to an “close encounter” taking place. A “close encounter” is not necessarily a “deadly encounter”. Having a prior and practiced plan does not result in a startled,panicked response to an incident when it occurs.

    It would appear that the Hill’s did not have a plan in place (just like most of are told that we should have practice fire-drills in out homes in case we have a fire in our homes, and everyone knows what to do when a fire occurs. Most of America neglects to follow those suggestions).

    Mr. Hill should be judged on what he perceived at the time of the incident. The fact that Mr. Hill had not given prior thought to the “what if’s”, and acted
    according to what he “perceived” as a threat to his family,he should not be seen or prosecuted as a villain in this matter.

    The same as when a police officer “perceived” a situation as one in which he
    uses “deadly force” to protect himself of another,and is later found “justified”
    based upon the threat that he “perceived” and based upon “his prior training and experience”,Mr. Hill who had “no prior training” and had “no prior
    experience” in this sort of incident, he should be judged accordingly…as “JUSTIFIED” and excusable.

    Hopefully this unfortunate incident will be an “awakening” to the necessity for all who “live in” or plan a “visit” to “Grizzly Country”,and that they will take the necessary steps to formulate their “plan” in the event they encounter the “possible” instead of the “unexpected”.

    As a law enforcement officer and one who enforces the law and is also charged with protecting natural resources and wildlife, I pray cooler heads will prevail,that those making the choice to take criminal action against Mr. Hill will
    consider “the totality of the situation” and not just pursue a political agenda.

    There has been no mention of the “Orphan Bear Cubs”. I hope that they have been located and cared for as well.

    With all the recent “Grizzly Attacks” around the country, I would hope people
    will formulate a “prior plan” and not leave their “common sense” at home,as my prior experience has shown,and take it with them into “Grizzly Country”.

    STAY SAFE OUT THERE!!! (In Bear Country)

  • Herschel Smith

    This is the most stolid, ridiculous, absurd, childish position I have ever heard. Your argument goes to this: he should have allowed the bear to become accustomed to eating living things on and around this property because he can send the bill to the federal government later, and thus the fact that he allows the bear to learn this behavior around his children isn’t really important.

    Good grief. Did you think about this position before you wrote it?

  • Greg

    Don’t take what I initially posted as Carte Blanc to the bears…If a bear becomes a “problem bear”,you contact the National Wildlife Service and they relocate,or
    if it necessitates,kill the bear.

    There are ways to address these issues…but do it right!

  • Herschel Smith

    So let me get this straight? (I’ll assume here that you have children, because if you don’t, you have no business commenting on what folks with children should do.) You advocate placing your children in danger by waiting until a grizzly bear becomes a “problem” bear before, um …, contacting the NWS to let them come when they wish to handle your problem bear? And this is the “right” way to do it?

    Is this your position … because it sure seems like your position?

  • Pingback: The Captain's Journal » Man Who Shot Grizzly Bear Defending His Family is Fined()

  • Warbucks

    The thing is, when working for a living in Grizzlyland, you are a tasty morsel in the food chain, and bears charge in from a stealth attack at near 30 mph. Ruger .454 Casull
    (and some “hot” 350 grain solids) if you have time to reach for it, is about your only chance, that or go uproot your family and work some where else.

You are currently reading "Man Kills Grizzly, Fights For His Freedom In Court", entry #7444 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Firearms,Obama Administration and was published August 26th, 2011 by Herschel Smith.

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