Wyoming Game and Fish biologist Luke Ellsbury, who shot a grizzly bear, will pay $10,000 in restitution.
Park County Circuit Judge Bruce Waters granted Ellsbury a deferral on two charges: taking a grizzly bear without a license and shooting across a roadway.
The shooting took place on Sept. 6, 2013, about 10 miles east of Yellowstone Park.
G&F suspended Ellsbury for two weeks without pay, costing him $2,500. Also, a letter detailing the incident was put into his permanent file.
Ellsbury was given first- time offender status and granted a 7-13-301 disposition. He will be on probation for one year. The case will be dismissed upon successful completion of probation.
Ellsbury, a large carnivore biologist, said since the shooting he has lost 40 pounds due to stress.
“It’s not something I’ve taken lightly for the last year,” he said. “I deal with the public for this very situation."
“It’s something that will follow me for the rest of my life due to my career.”
Besides restitution, Waters also ordered Ellsbury to pay $260 in fines and costs.
“There have been a lot of good people in your situation,” Waters said. “I don’t think you are a bad or evil person. It’s just an unfortunate situation.”
The grizzly was 2 years old, which along with poor visibility due to rain, made the bear difficult to identify because it was smaller than average.
Earlier in the day, Ellsbury had been tracking a black bear and returned that evening to continue the hunt.
He watched the bear for more than 10 minutes from a distance of about 130 yards away.
When the bear started to leave the area, Ellsbury said he had to make a split-second decision to shoot.
Dan Thompson, supervisor of the large carnivore section, told the judge what he believed happened.
“Luke called me directly after the event took place,” he said. “He was extremely remorseful and took full responsibility for his actions.”
Waters, while acknowledging that Ellsbury “did all the right steps” after the shooting, said there was little room for the state to deviate on the restitution.
“The state has determined the value of a grizzly to be $25,000,” he said.
While Ellsbury’s lawyer asked for restitution in the amount of $7,500, the state requested the $10,000 figure.
Park County prosecuting attorney Bryan Skoric says the law is clear.
“It’s shocking when they realize it’s a grizzly,” he said. “The state asked for $10,000 restitution and it’s what’s been set. That’s the law.”
Deferral was granted since Ellsbury has no prior felony charges or previous adjudication in other courts.
(Greg Ellison can be reached at email@example.com.)