Black Bear Hunter Fined for Shooting Grizzly Bear

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Being sure of your target is one of the fundamental rules of safe hunting. Violating this rule can cost hundreds of dollars and a great deal of embarrassment.

Mitchell Brian Yarrington found this out May 26 when he went black bear hunting west of Thermopolis. Yarrington mistakenly shot and killed a 5-year old male grizzly bear weighing approximately 350 pounds thinking that he had taken an uncommon, blonde-phased black bear.

The bear, drawn to a bait site on the Middle Fork of Owl Creek, was feeding on the hunter-provided bait when Yarrington made the wrong decision to take it.

“It was just about dark when he shot the bear. Unfortunately, he did not take the time to identify those physical characteristics that hunters must use to differentiate between black and grizzly bears,” said Thermopolis Game Warden Tim Fuchs. Only after the bear was dead did the hunter recognize that the paws and claws were too large to be a black bear.

“To his credit, he immediately called me on his cellular telephone to report the violation,” Fuchs said.

As a matter of protocol, Special Agent Tim Eicher of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was notified and assisted with the interviews and investigation.

In accordance with federal law, investigators must determine whether or not the killing of the grizzly had been intentional or unintentional. After interviewing Yarrington, Eicher determined that the situation appeared to be an “unintentional take” of a grizzly bear during the black bear hunting season, and therefore the Wyoming Game and Fish Department should conduct the investigation.

A follow-up investigation of the bait site and the details of the event as reported by Yarrington were consistent with the physical evidence found at the scene.

Yarrington, 33, was cited for taking a grizzly bear without a proper license. He posted and forfeited his $780 bond.

“It is unfortunate that this happened. We’ve tried to be proactive,” Fuchs said. “We offered a three-hour ‘Living in Bear and Mountain Lion Country’ workshop in Thermopolis earlier this spring. The objective of the workshop was to provide hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts with the information necessary to properly identify bears and avoid conflicts. Only three people from our community attended.”

Fuchs also noted that the G&F’s Web site ( now includes a bear identification test where hunters and others can test their bear identification skills. The site has links to related bear education materials.