Support builds for man charged in grizzly killing
by Dave Workman
An Idaho man facing federal charges for having killed one of three grizzly bears that entered his rural property near the Canadian border, because he was afraid for the safety of his children, is getting a tidal wave of support, including a letter from Gov. Butch Otter.
Jeremy Hill, who lives on 20 acres in northern Boundary County near Porthill, fatally shot the bear in May, but when charges were filed and he appeared in court in August, the political fur began to fly. The story of Hill’s bear encounter spread across the country, with coverage in newspapers all the way to Florida, and all over the Internet.
The incident occurred on Mother’s Day, as five of Hill’s six children were reportedly playing out in the yard. When a sow grizzly and two cubs appeared, Hill quickly concluded that they were a threat to his children. The bears moved in on some pigs that the children had raised. Apparently not knowing where every one of the children were, Hill fired and killed one of the cubs, a male. The other two bruins escaped.
Hill immediately notified the Department of Fish & Game. The evidence apparently squared with Hill’s account of the incident.
But then several weeks later, Hill was charged by US Attorney Wendy Olson, an Idaho native who was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama.
Enraged activists across the Pacific Northwest were quick to condemn the charge, and started contributing to a defense fund. Hill’s daughter tried to auction one of the pigs, only to have it re-auctioned several times, raising a total of more than $19,000 for the defense fund. In the end, the final bidder actually returned the pig to her.
The controversy also brought out the animal rights extremists, several who left stunning comments on a reader response page at the Coeur d’Alene Press.
“Guy was obviously living in some sort of bear habitat and should get the full sentence and jail time for destroying endangered wildlife. Also place his children in foster care since he shouldn’t have them in a bear-living area and around guns in the first place. Animals were there first and have just as much human rights,” wrote one reader who identified himself as “Obama2012.”
Another wrote, “Grizzly bears are endangered. Humans are not. There are close to 7 billion people on this planet. This story would have been better off it is/was about this hunter being mauled by the grizzly bear and eaten. Bears gotta eat too.”
And there was a third remark which noted, “…the bear is rarer and as such it is more valuable (it’s (sic) genes are in short supply) than a human which is disgustingly common.”
Days after Hill was arraigned in federal court, Gov. Otter fired off a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. In it, Otter wrote, “I recognize the federal jurisdiction under the Endangered Species Act, but I strongly support the right of individuals to defend themselves and others in such situations. Many, including me, feel Mr. Hill did what a concerned parent would do…”
The governoralso told Salazar that the US Fish & Wildlife Service “needs to consider the impacts to grizzly recovery efforts because of Jeremy’s case.”
“There is a great public outcry,” the governor wrote, “about this issue, and prosecution may further damage community support for recovery efforts. There must be flexibility for citizens to protect their loved ones and property, and a sense of regulatory perspective about the larger impact of such enforcement actions.”
Otter asserted that “One of the flaws of the ESA is the premium it places on protecting species at the expense of everything else.”
“Although an individual can protect human safety under the lawas Jeremy felt he was doingit’s a shame that the Endangered Species Act still does not enable citizens to protect their private property and pets in the same manner,” Otter said.
If convicted, Hill faces prison and a $50,000 fine.
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