griz killing renews call to end park hunt

By Jim Stanford on November 24, 2012

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Grizzly No. 399. How long before one of the park’s famous bruins has a run-in with hunters?

The killing of a grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park on Thanksgiving morning has federal officials under fire for continuing to allow the controversial elk hunt.

The incident was the third conflict in little over a year between hunters and grizzly bears in the Snake River bottom near Schwabacher’s Landing. In October 2011, a Jackson hunter was mauled by a griz but survived, and in October of this year a hunter from Cody lost his elk carcass to a family of four bears.

The killing, which came after the bear charged a man and his two sons, is the first ever by a hunter inside the park. Grand Teton is one of only a few national parks to allow hunting; known by the euphemism “elk reduction program,” the hunt was part of a compromise worked out to expand the preserve in 1950.

As grizzlies, protected under the Endangered Species Act, have pushed farther and farther south from Yellowstone in recent years, critics have called on the park to end the program, especially in the river bottom. Jackson resident Aaron Feuerstein has started a petition at change.org asking the federal government to stop the hunt. The petition had 81 signatures as of this morning.

(Photo by Sue Cedarholm)

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Posted under Deaths, Environment, Politics, Sports

24 Comments so far

  1. D November 24, 2012 7:26 pm

    Or….. We should start hunting Griz in and out if the park.

  2. Aaron November 24, 2012 10:23 pm

    Thanks for the support Jim. We now have 133 signatures!! I’d like to emphasize this is not an anti hunting petition. It’s about the preservation of our National Parks and hunting should not be allowed in them. I fully recognize people’s frustrations with wildlife “management” but they were here long before we were.

  3. J Sparks November 25, 2012 12:15 pm

    Looking at your petition, what makes this hunt now unnecessary? Have they stopped feeding the elk? Perhaps a petition to end vehicle traffic in the park would be a more effective way to minimize mortalities. After all, vehicle collisions have been responsible for many more deaths (people, bears, wolves, etc) than the hunt.

  4. Aaron November 25, 2012 1:48 pm

    @j Sparks, feel free to start one @ change.org, your comment proves my point exactly, wolves, bears, cars, etc. are taking care of the overpopulation “problem”. If you don’t care to sign it then don’t, plenty of other logical individuals are and will

  5. D November 25, 2012 4:16 pm

    Hunting, killing, eating is part of the never ending circle of life. Human or wildlife it’s all the same thing.

  6. martin frank November 25, 2012 4:34 pm

    End the program so the wolves have something to eat too. Great strategy, the “program” helps the entire environment including feeding folks who cant afford to buy meat. Hunting in the park hasnt changed migration of the elk or any other species enough to neccesitate ending it. Bears have and will continue to hunt in these areas with or without us there.

  7. joe November 25, 2012 4:51 pm

    more of a tabloid dysphemism. With CWD on the horizon, hunting will become a more important tool. Hang in there only 4,999, 831 signatures to go. too many elk, too many wolves, too many grizzles
    and too many complaining older white men. How does Mary Gibson Scott do it

  8. Prosecute November 26, 2012 7:24 am

    Will Steve Weichman, County Attorney, be all over this with charges for the death like he was last time..?

  9. Aphoto4you November 26, 2012 8:43 am

    There shouldn’t be even question less yet petition…don’t we understand that this is their land …..let them live not die …humans always wanna control everyone …what are we GODS..?

    This land is their land, we came in and violated their wilderness….their free roaming ….this has to STOP and not tomorrow…..tomorrow might be to late for some…

    HUNTING in National park? And only park that allows is a joke ….might as well go to petting zoo and hunt …HUNTERS MUST BE FORBIDDEN inside National park

    End of story

  10. Dave Smith November 26, 2012 11:15 am

    Prosecute for what? It appears the hunters killed the bear in self-defense. That’s legal. Until the NPS releases information suggesting this was not a legitimate case of self-defense, there’s nothing to prosecute. It’s unfortunate the grizzly was killed, but the good news is, the hunters were not injured.

  11. @dave smith November 27, 2012 7:13 am

    Weichman doesn’t care if the bear was shot in self defense.

    “A jury last week found 41-year-old Stephen Westmoreland guilty of a misdemeanor charge of illegally taking a grizzly bear stemming from an incident in September when he shot a bear in Ditch Creek. He claimed self-defense..”

    re: http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=6025

    Weichman will go after anyone except his friends.

    re: http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=6974

  12. dave November 27, 2012 8:50 am
  13. Clayton November 28, 2012 7:53 am

    It’s called an investigation Dave not a witchhunt. The details are pretty clear in the Westmoreland case. It was an unfortunate situation and both the bear and Westmoreland suffered. But to infer that the specifics of the case were rigged based on prejudice is not right and unfair to the investigative process. Just because a person intends to do right doesn’t mean their actions are right. I feel bad for Westmoreland, but to suggest that he was prosecuted because he wasn’t friends with Weichman or that it was clearly self-defense, is false. This isn’t about us against the big bad bears, or us against the big bad judicial system. As an avid hunter I want to see my privilege to hunt protected and I want to see the ecosystem the wildlife thrives in protected. We don’t need to create or feed the notion of a dichotomy here.

  14. Brad November 28, 2012 8:00 am

    Weichman doesn’t have jurisdiction inside Teton and Yellowstone Parks. The Westmoreland incident took place outside the parks. Weichman had nothing to do with the Fleck arrest, but his comments in the story speak for themselves.

  15. jd November 28, 2012 9:47 am

    You said it. A JURY found him guilty, not Weichman. This hunt needs to end. I thought the wolves ate all the elk? Why is a “reduction” hunt needed? This “hunt” was created so the state of Wyoming would drop it’s opposition to the park when it was expanded. It has nothing to do with reducing the elk population. Standing at a pullout on the highway waiting for an elk to wander by isnt hunting.

  16. Brad November 28, 2012 6:15 pm

    Clayton @ #8 — well said.

  17. David November 29, 2012 6:40 pm

    If Westmoreland was friends with Weichman, there’s no way Weichman would have been so aggressive. I doubt the case would comne to market and/or wasted so much taxpayer money and time ($500 penality but boatloads of cash to prosecute).

    Westmoreland was convicted of illegally taking a grizzly because he didn’t defend himself in the politically-correct manner. Instead of using bear spray or waiting for the bear to kiss his ass he shot it at a distance that the jury considered excessive. Weichman didn’t like the way Westmoreland handled the situation so he set out to make an example of Westmoreland even without a law to back up the charges. “State law could be clarified to help make cases of self-defense against a bear less ambiguous,“ Weichman said. The jury decided they liked the standard of self-defense that Weichman presented. There was no legal basis for the decision other than wishful thinking that he didn‘t act in self defense. “Under the circumstances, we feel the defendant acted out of fear instead of self-defense,” the verdict said.” Wow, if you’re scared for your life, you better not shoot anything in Jackson.

    SO, you must allow the bear to make the first move. Sort of like letting the other guy pull his gun first in a gunfight. Westmoreland should have been carrying bear spray – that wasn’t required by law – and he should have paused with his gun aimed before firing a shot if charged by the bear but in no way could anyone say he wasn’t trying to defend himself. Cops kill people with less evidence under the assumption that their life is in danger and they fear for their safety. So, self-defense is a crime if Weichman doesn’t like the way you did it.

  18. David November 29, 2012 7:04 pm

    As for Fleck, I love the guy. It’s hard not to admire his gumption but he acted in a way that would get anyone else set up for an agressive attack by law enforcement and Weichman in a court of law.

    Remember what Smith said about refusing a blood test for DUI:

    ————–

    “What we decided is we will take advantage of the search warrant and ask them if they consent to a blood draw,” Smith said. “If they won’t, we will not physically force them. It is not my intent to put my officers or the public in a dangerous situation. We will just tack on an additional charge of ‘interference with an officer’ and it will be up to [County Prosecutor Steve] Weichman whether he wants to pursue that.”

    ————–

    “interference with an officer” is exactly what Fleck engaged in and it was over the top (and entertaining to Fleck supporters). Weichman refused to prosecute due to his friendship with Fleck and that sent the message to one and all that they would be better off not pursuing the matter.

    Smith and Weichman have had no trouble going after others for “interference with an officer” and for the most casual types of ‘interference’.

  19. Dave Smith November 30, 2012 10:34 am

    It’s been 8 days since the shooting–why is it taking so long for the official report on the incident? Even if nothing happened over the holiday weekend, the feds, state, and whoever else is involved has had 4 working days to write a report.

    The feds, state, and Steve Weichman wanted to make and example of Steve Westmoreland for not using bear spray. That silly idea was destroyed during the trial.

    BYU professor Tom Smith was the primary author of research on Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska and Efficacy of Firearms for Bear Deterrence in Alaska, so it’s notable that he recently told Sports Afield, “If I’m actually out hunting and I have a gun in my hands and suddenly a bear comes at me–do you think I’m going to lay the gun down and pick up bear spray? Are you out of your mind?” Sept/Oct 2012 Sports Afield

    If Grand Teton was serious about hunter safety, the NPS wouldn’t require hunters to carry bear spray. The NPS would give hunters practical advice on how to bring their rifles into action quickly, where to aim, when to shoot, etc.

  20. ransas November 30, 2012 8:03 pm

    The funny thing about Jackson hole is that one minute the governing bodies are freakishly overprotective of wildlife (pathway closure, elk refuge on year-round lockdown, designated wildlife closures, etc), the next they’re pushing for tossing lead into anything on four legs. Bipolar much? Must be that one offsets the guilt of the other.

  21. @Dave SMith December 2, 2012 8:48 am

    “The feds, state, and Steve Weichman wanted to make and example of Steve Westmoreland for not using bear spray. That silly idea was destroyed during the trial.”

    Really? How so? Explain why Weichman went after Westmoreland.

    According to the Jury, Westmoreland wasn’t poaching, wasn’t engaged in target practice, wasn’t confusing a bear for an elk. Thye decided he feared for his life but reacted too quickly with deadly force.

    “Weichman didn’t like the way Westmoreland handled the situation so he set out to make an example of Westmoreland even without a law to back up the charges.”

    None said Weichman went after Westmoreland simply because he wasn’t using bear spray. Weichman did set out to make an example of Westmoreland. That’s what prosecutors do all the time unless you’re friends with them.

  22. joe December 2, 2012 1:35 pm

    Our local media, tabloid and inter web were probably most responsible for the witch hunt mentality towards Westmoreland.

  23. Dave Smith December 4, 2012 12:19 pm

    Grand Teton NP had a role in the witch hunt mentality towards Westmoreland. On October 2, 2009, Grand Teton National Park issued a press release—Elk Reduction Program To Begin In Grand Teton—that said, “The recent illegal killing of grizzly bear #615 by a hunter in the Ditch Creek area east of Grand Teton . . .”

    Whoa!! He was charged with illegally killing a grizzly. Big difference between being charged with a crime, and being convicted and found guilty. That’s why we have a court system. Grand Teton NP decided to be judge and jury and declare Westmoreland guilty months before his trial.

  24. Dick December 9, 2012 1:18 pm

    Gotta wonder why anyone carries bear spray during hunting season if it’s true that 2 cans didn’t stop this grizz.

    I need a bigger gun!

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