A hunter is facing charges after he killed a federally-protected grizzly bear approximately 14 miles from the eastern edge of Yellowstone National Park. According to court documents obtained by the Powell Tribune late last week, Patrick Gogerty of Wapiti, Wyoming told Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) officials that he shot the 530-pound boar grizzly after mistakenly identifying it as a black bear. Wyoming’s spring black bear season began on May 1, the same day that Gogerty said he shot the bear.
By the time Gogerty turned himself in on May 2, the dead grizzly on the side of the North Fork Highway had caused a public stir resulting in news articles in the New York Times, USA Today, the Huffington Post, and other outlets. “Gogerty felt confident it was a black bear as he could not see a hump on its back,” wrote North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane in a court affidavit referenced by the Powell Tribune.”[He] should have turned himself in immediately.”
Cody-based wildlife photographer Amy Gerber was one of the first members of the public to see the dead bear from the side of the heavily-trafficked, two-lane road—which leads directly to Yellowstone’s East Gate. She told Field & Stream that the animal was 30 yards from the road when she saw WGFD agents conducting their initial investigation of the scene. “I saw bear scat along the road,” said Gerber. “There were two or three piles along a one-mile stretch of the highway. It was clear to me that the bear had walked the road. My opinion is that they shot it from right there by the road, which is also illegal.”
The court documents say that Gogerty claims he fired a total of seven rounds at the bruin after he spotted it from 100 yards away. The WGFD conducted a full necropsy and found evidence of four bullet wounds. Gogerty said it wasn’t until he approached the dead bear that he realized it was a grizzly by examining its claws, pads, and head.
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So far, Gogerty’s penalties include a misdemeanor charge of “taking a trophy game animal without the proper license or authority.” That count was issued by Park County Prosecuting Attorney Bryan Skoric on Thursday, May 11. According to the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, the federal agency in charge of managing grizzly bears under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), anyone who knowingly violates the ESA can be fined up to $50,000 and is subject to one year in prison. Gogerty is expected to enter into a plea deal with the state on May 19.