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Man kills wrong bear near Yellowstone, faces a year in jail

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming hunter faces up to a year in jail and a $10,000 fine if convicted of killing a grizzly bear he allegedly claims he mistook for a legal-to-hunt black bear outside Yellowstone National Park.

The dead male grizzly weighing about 530 pounds was reported around 9 a.m. May 1 by several drivers on Highway 14 near the eastern entrance to Yellowstone. The carcass had been left where it fell, about 30 yards from the road and close to a picnic area on the Shoshone River.

The bear had been shot at least four times, said an affidavit filed in Park County Circuit Court by game warden Travis Crane.

The following day, a man called the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to turn himself in. He reportedly told Crane that he had been confident before shooting that the animal was a black bear and realized his error only when he was able to inspect the carcass.

The hunter is a 65-year-old man from the community of Wapiti, between Yellowstone and Cody. He is scheduled to be arraigned Friday, May 19, in Cody Circuit Court.

Killing a grizzly bear in Wyoming is a misdemeanor. Besides the jail time and fine, the charge carries a penalty of up to $25,000 in restitution to the state and six years’ suspension of hunting privileges.

Grizzlies in the Yellowstone region of southern Montana, eastern Idaho and northwestern Wyoming are a federally protected species. They can be legally killed only in clear-cut cases of defending humans or livestock.

Hunters are told to immediately report any killing of a grizzly.

Black bears are typically smaller and darker than grizzly bears and lack the other species’ characteristically humped back.

Grizzly-human encounters have increased as the Yellowstone region’s grizzly population has grown to as many as 1,000 animals since the 1970s.

As many as 50,000 grizzlies once roamed the western U.S. Still, they are considered a conservation success story with rebounding numbers in Yellowstone and other pockets in the lower 48 states.

California’s last known grizzly was seen in Sequoia National Park in 1924. Recent petitions to reintroduce the species to the state have been rejected by government agencies.

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