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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2008

MT - Hunter illegally kills grizzly bear

Billings man hunting black bear kills grizzly
By BEN PIERCE
Chronicle OutThere Editor

A Billings man accidentally shot and killed a 300-pound male grizzly bear while hunting in the Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky last Saturday, state game officials announced Friday.

Curtis Settergren, 54, shot the grizzly from about 100 yards in an open area dotted with sagebrush while hunting for black bear in the Gallatin National Forest.

After shooting the bear, another grizzly appeared from the same area and scared Settergren off.

Settergren reported the incident to Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks game wardens Monday morning.

“He did the right thing in turning himself in,” game warden Capt. Sam Sheppard, of FWP’s Region 3, said. “It hit him pretty hard. He is hugely remorseful.”

Settergren is charged with possessing or taking a grizzly bear unlawfully. He faces a $735 fine and $2,000 restitution for the grizzly bear. His hunting and trapping privileges may be suspended for three years.

“There was a level of negligence, but he did not go out looking to illegally shoot a grizzly,” Sheppard said. “The fact remains that it is a huge damage to the resource.”

The incident occurred 1.7 miles up U.S. Forest Service Trail #33, near Albino Lake. The Forest Service has closed the trail until further notice.

“Taylor Fork is grizzly bear central,” Sheppard said. “There are black bear, but there is a high likelihood that tracks and sign will be from grizzly.”

FWP game wardens Brian Lloyd and Jim Smolczynski went to the scene Tuesday to investigate. Settergren had given Lloyd a detailed account of the incident, including directions to the location of the shooting, where brass casings were recovered.

The head and paws of the grizzly were removed and will be used by FWP for educational purposes. The carcass was left at the site for scavengers.

A necropsy to determine the cause of death was performed Wednesday. FWP bear specialist Kevin Frey said the bear was a sub-adult male.

The grizzly is the first accidentally killed by a hunter who misidentified the bear since grizzlies were removed from the endangered species list last year. Two other bears have been killed by hunters in self defense since the delisting, both in the Gardiner area. The delisting is currently being challenged in the courts.

“The population of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is estimated at a minimum of 600,” Frey said. “Montana probably has 10 to 20 percent of those bears at any one time.

“Grizzly bears prior to and post-delisting have a mortality limit that is hinged to a (population) minimum,” Frey said. “We are trying to limit human-caused mortalities since the delisting. Those mortalities are shared between Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.”

Frey said unsecured garbage is the leading cause of grizzly mortality because problem bears are euthanized. A combination of self defense, illegal kills and mistaken identification is the second-leading cause of death.

“This one looked very much like a grizzly,” Sheppard said. “He needed to take more time before he pulled the trigger. Everyone needs to take more time in this situation.”

The closure area lies north of Taylor Fork Road between the Albino Lake and Meadow Creek trailheads. Taylor Fork Road and Meadow Creek Trail remain open.  

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