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Idaho grizzly bear case ends with no charges, politicians unsatisfied

The north Idaho man who shot a grizzly bear is off the hook but Idaho's top politicians aren't dropping their beef with the Endangered Species Act. Federal prosecutors decided not to pursue a criminal case against the man who said he was protecting his family against a grizzly bear.

Federal prosecutors will let Jeremy Hill off with a $1,000 fine after initially pursuing charges that could have landed him in jail. Idaho Congressman Raul Labrador and Governor Butch Otter responded by saying they’re pleased with that decision but they still want to make it more difficult to prosecute people for shooting endangered animals that are a threat.

Wildlife advocates say this grizzly bear case has been overblown. Brooks Fahy heads the Eugene-based group Predator Defense.

“I would challenge anybody to show me dozens and dozens of these prosecutions. They're rare," Fayhy said. "And actually I think there needs to be more prosecutions not less, because these animals are killed much more often than you'd think.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife managers could not provide firm numbers but a spokeswoman said criminal cases against people who shoot endangered species are not very common. The head of grizzly bear recovery for Fish and Wildlife says every hunting season, the agency sees a handful of grizzly bear shootings by hunters and doesn’t pursue charges because the cases are considered self-defense.

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Inland Northwest Correspondent Jessica Robinson reports from the Northwest News Network's bureau in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. From the politics of wolves to mining regulation to small town gay rights movements, Jessica covers the economic, demographic and environmental trends that are shaping places east of the Cascades.