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Idaho bear biologist resigns over grizzly killings, conservation group says

A zoomed-in grizzly bear pokes its head out of bushes
Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Idaho’s top grizzly bear biologist has resigned over the killing of a bear and her cubs in eastern Idaho this fall, as first reported by the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game killed a grizzly sow and two cubs in early November near Tetonia, northwest of Driggs, and community outcry quickly followed.

The Department said the bears were showing little fear toward humans and were near people’s homes.

But Kathy Rinaldi, who leads Idaho conservation efforts for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, said the animals were not conditioned to human food and were in a very rural area.

She said the decision to euthanize the bears felt out of line with previous management decisions since she’s been in her position for the past decade.

The bears were outside of the official Greater Yellowstone recovery zone, but if they’d been within it, Rinaldi wonders if they might have been treated differently.

“If these bears were up in the Island Park area, Fish and Game has historically given them more latitude,” she said.

This incident also seemed distinct to Rinaldi because she said Jeremy Nicholson, a Fish and Game bear biologist based in eastern Idaho, resigned over it.

Nicholson and Fish and Game did not respond to requests for comment.

In a news release, Fish and Game said the bears first became a public safety concern this fall in Yellowstone National Park when they seemed used to residential areas. Then, when they traveled to Gardiner, Montana, they foraged near houses.

After being relocated near West Yellowstone, they spent their last several weeks in rural residential areas near Tetonia, according to the Department.

Rinaldi said Idaho Fish and Game has been a good partner in managing bears in the area, and that Nicholson was particularly skilled at communicating with the public.

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 are listed under the Endangered Species Act, so federal officials have to sign off on state requests to euthanize them.

Idaho’s Congressional delegation is petitioning to have the bears delisted.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

Copyright 2022 Boise State Public Radio

As the south-central Idaho reporter, I cover the Magic and Wood River valleys. I also enjoy writing about issues related to health and the environment.