You are here: home   Blogs   The GOAT Blog   Spray, don't shoot
The GOAT Blog

Spray, don't shoot

Document Actions
Tip Jar Donation

Your donation supports independent non-profit journalism from High Country News.

Jodi Peterson | May 26, 2010 05:30 PM

The meaning of a recent court case in Wyoming is clear: you can't kill a grizzly just because you're frightened. 41-year-old Stephen Westmoreland shot a female grizzly last fall just outside of Grand Teton National Park that showed no sign of aggression. He'd been gutting a deer and was "covered in animal blood," according to an OregonLive story, when he came across the bear feeding on a gut pile he'd seen earlier in the day. He shot it from 40 yards, afraid the griz might decide to attack him.

Last week a Jackson Hole jury convicted Westmoreland of a misdemeanor in the shooting, since it's legal to kill a grizzly only in genuine self-defense. The News&Guide reports:

The case shows we need to understand the best ways to avoid conflicts with and defend ourselves from grizzly bears,” (Teton County Attorney Steve) Weichman said. “We need to understand when we’re in danger and when we’re not.”

“Just killing a grizzly bear because it scares you is not going to fly,” he said. “That’s the message of this case.”

And that's a very important message now that people are allowed to carry loaded guns in national parks in some circumstances. Government could do a better job of educating  gun-toters about when a predator is actually a threat, suggests

To provide for hunter safety and prevent the unnecessary killing of grizzly bears, state and federal agencies need to give hunters guidelines on when it’s OK to shoot a bear in self-defense.

Well, that's a start. But it's far better not to get yourself into a self-defense scenario in the first place. Weichman's right -- hunters and park visitors who wield firearms in grizzly territory need to take some responsibility. They ought to carry bear spray or flares rather than just reflexively gunning down wildlife they see as a threat, and learn how to lessen their chances of surprising a grizzly. Otherwise, we're going to see more cases like Westmoreland's ... and more dead bears.

Email Newsletter

The West in your Inbox

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. Why I am a Tea Party member |
  3. The privatization of public campground management | All the info you need to decide whether you love o...
  4. Efficiency lessons from Germany |
  5. The Latest: Interior commits to restoring bison on select lands | The “odd ungulate out” gets a tentative win.
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. A graceful gazelle becomes a pest | Inrroducing an African gazelle called the oryx for...
  3. What's killing the Yukon's salmon? | An ecological mystery in Alaska has scientists and...
  4. Plains sense | Ten years after Frank and Deborah Popper first pro...
  5. North Dakota wrestles with radioactive oilfield waste | Regulators look at raising the limit for radiation...
© 2014 High Country News, all rights reserved. | privacy policy | terms of use | powered by Plone