A Riverton man was recently fined nearly $12,000 for illegally killing a grizzly bear in 2017.
That man, Joel Blury, 57, was sentenced in Circuit Court Feb. 5 by judge Bruce Waters for illegally shooting and killing the endangered species. He also received a misdemeanor charge for shooting wildlife from a road.
Dan Smith, a regional supervisor with Wyoming Game and Fish, said Blury mistook the adult grizzly for a black bear, a game he was legally hunting the May day he made his critical mistake.
“He blew a predator call and sure enough, he saw the bear coming out of the woods and walking towards him,” Smith said.
From his ATV vehicle on Road 203 in the Shoshone National Forest, west of Meeteetse near the Wood River area, Blury shot the bear with his .30-06 rifle, killing it with a single shot.
Blury did not immediately turn himself in for the crime and Smith said Game and Fish staff were starting to follow leads regarding his identity. But before they came to him, Blury did turn himself in, Smith said.
Smith said the long delay in prosecution occurred because the case was handed to U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Lander for possible Federal prosecution, because the shooting involved Endangered Species Act wildlife.
Here, “they declined to prosecute it,” Smith said, so the case was handed back to Park County.
Within his punishment, Blury is prohibited from hunting, trapping or fishing for the remainder of 2019.
For the shooting, Blury must pay Game and Fish $10,000 restitution for the bear’s life and $1,680 to the county for his physical act. With court fees and other associated costs his grand total reaches $11,735. He already has paid $200 toward his debt, the minimum payment he must make each month.
From July 2017 to September 2018 grizzlies were “de-listed” from the act per U.S. Fish and Wildlife decision.
The federal court decision returning grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection again makes it so shooting a grizzly bear without proof of self-defense is considered a felony carrying up to $50,000 in fines and one year in jail.