On the Hill: ‘Luckiest shot’
JACKSON, Wyo. – Federal officials won’t charge a man who shot a grizzly bear last fall while elk hunting, saying he acted in self defense.Ken Meade, 65, of Lander, killed the male grizzly at close range as it charged him. He said that killing the 4-year-old, 350- to 400-pound bear as it closed in on him was “the luckiest shot of my life.”Meade was hunting elk on Togwotee Pass with his dog Clementine when the incident occurred, he said this week. He had parked his camper less than 50 yards from the highway.Climbing a sagebrush-covered hill behind the camper at about 6:45 a.m. Meade was heading to the edge of the timber when Clementine started barking. Looking back, Meade saw the bear walking around the camper.”I could see its nose down to the ground,” he said. “It got on my trail and started coming at us at a run.”The contour of the land put the bear out of sight for a moment. “When he reappeared he was coming at me in a dead run,” Meade said.Meade shot the bear with his .338-caliber rifle, hitting it in the chest and killing it instantly. Investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service later determined the bear was 23 yards from Meade when he killed it.”When it got to within 23 yards, I was sure he was coming to get you,” Meade said. “He wasn’t coming for my autograph.”Only after he killed the bear did Meade see that it was a grizzly. He went to the Blackrock Ranger Station, arriving there before it opened at 8 a.m. to report the incident.State and federal wildlife officers investigated the shooting. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forwarded a copy of its report to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for a determination whether Meade should be prosecuted.Until this April, grizzly bears in Wyoming had been classified as an endangered species under federal law. The penalty for unjustifiably killing a federally protected animal can range as high as $100,000 in addition to jail time, officials said.John R. Barksdale, assistant U.S. attorney, said his office reviewed the facts of Meade’s killing of the bear.”Based upon the report, we look and decide whether there is enough evidence” to file charges, Barksdale said. “In this case, we found it to be in self-defense.”Mark Bruscino, bear management officer with the state game department, said the bear had previously been relocated from the Cody area, where someone had been feeding it. He said it’s possible the bear was looking for food from Meade.Bruscino said the bear had been collared previously, but it had fallen off.The Wyoming game commission plans to establish hunting seasons for grizzlies in the state in coming years.
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