Hunter Faces Charges for Grizzly Bear’s Death

Wyoming man claims to have mistaken the grizzly for a black bear

Patrick M. Gogerty, of Wapiti, has been charged with taking a trophy animal without a license outside the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park on May 1. He will enter a plea in Park County Circuit Court on May 19. (Courtesy photo from Amy Wells)

By Melissa Thomasma

Special to the Wyoming Truth

Patrick M. Gogerty will enter a plea during a preliminary hearing in Park County Circuit Court on May 19 on misdemeanor charges of taking a trophy animal without a license outside the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. 

Court documents allege that Gogerty, a Wapiti resident, shot the boar grizzly on May 1, the first day of black bear hunting. An affidavit from North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane states that Gogerty saw what he thought was a black bear approximately 100 yards from the road and fired around seven shots. The bear’s necropsy determined that it had been hit by at least four bullets.

Crane wrote that Gogerty “could not see a hump on its back” and was therefore confident the bear was not a grizzly. Upon approaching the animal’s carcass, however, the hunter realized the 530-pound bruin was not a black bear. Gogerty claimed responsibility for the incident in a voice message he left for Crane on May 2, court documents state.  

“Gogerty should have turned himself in immediately,” Crane wrote in his affidavit, though he did not offer an explanation as to why the hunter waited until the following day.

On the morning of May 2, wildlife photographers discovered the dead grizzly approximately 14 miles from the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, near Cody. The Wyoming Game & Fish Department quickly launched an investigation as rumors of poaching swirled; initial reports suggested the bear had been shot, but no information emerged to indicate that it had been an act of self-defense.

In Wyoming, killing a grizzly is punishable by an up-to-$10,000 fine and up to one year of jail time. A conviction can result in the loss of hunting privileges for up to six years and up to $25,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Since the grizzly bear is still listed on the Endangered Species Act, Gogerty also could find himself facing federal charges—a consequence that several conservation nonprofits are demanding. Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, WildEarth Guardians, The Humane Society of the U.S., the Sierra Club and Western Watersheds Project intend to send a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service encouraging the agency to press federal charges. If found guilty, Gogerty could face an additional fine of up to $50,000, a year of jail time or both.

“We are pleased to see the Park County prosecutor has brought misdemeanor state charges against the man claiming responsibility,” the group expressed in a joint statement. “However, we are strongly encouraging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to also press charges to the maximum extent of the law as this killing was a violation of the Endangered Species Act.”

Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, said the nonprofit groups want to see Gogerty prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. “It is a hunter’s responsibility to know what species they are aiming at, and with this being an area frequented by grizzly bears, he shouldn’t have taken the shot if he wasn’t sure,” Combs told the Wyoming Truth.

The five nonprofits also intend to send a letter to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department demanding that all black bear hunters complete a mandatory bear identification course before receiving a license. Currently, the course is voluntary in Wyoming; by contrast, it is mandatory in Montana.

“Anyone can go afield to hunt black bears with zero knowledge of the difference between the two species,” Combs said. “This leaves mistaken identity as a significant threat to grizzlies.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has not issued charges in the case at this time.

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