Idaho Man Kills Grizzly Bear in His Yard as It Charges His Girlfriend

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An Idaho man was lucky to have his shotgun close at hand on June 6, when he had to defend his girlfriend from a charging grizzly bear. The incident occurred just outside their home in Island Park, when the bear charged as they were heading inside.

Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game investigated the incident, which they referred to as a “surprise encounter” in a press release shared Tuesday. They determined that the man killed the bear “in defense-of-life,” which is permitted under Idaho law. IDFG regional communications manager James Brower tells Outdoor Life that the grizzly bear, a yearling male, died near the roadway in front of the home. Brower says the man shot the bear once with a load of buckshot was unable to provide many other details about the incident.

He adds that investigators didn’t find any clues that could help explain why the bear charged. Grizzlies often stay with their litter mates for a year or more after leaving the mother, so it’s possible that it had a sibling nearby. Young grizzly bears are also more curious and prone to causing trouble than older bears, which are more accustomed to (and often fearful of) humans.

“The man said he and his girlfriend were exiting their vehicle and heading into the house when she screamed, drawing his attention to a bear running in her direction,” officials explained in the press release. “The man was removing items from the vehicle, which included a shotgun that he was able to raise and fire toward the bear, causing it to turn and run away.”

Island Park lies in the heart of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which is one of six grizzly bear recovery zones established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Of those zones, the GYE is home to the second-highest population of grizzly bears, just behind the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in northwest Montana. Together, the two zones are home to more than 2,000 grizzlies, according to the latest estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey. And although these populations are both growing and expanding, the species remains listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The shooting on June 6 marks the second time that a grizzly bear has been killed in self-defense in the Lower 48 in 2024. The first incident took place in late April, when a shed hunter in Montana shot a charging grizzly bear with a handgun. In that case, the bear was a 12-year-old sow protecting its cub.

This article by Dac Collins was first published by Outdoor Life on 14 June 2024. Lead Image: A grizzly sow and her yearling cub (right), in the GYE. Officials say the grizzly that charged the couple was a yearling male. Neal Herbert / NPS.

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