Hunter fined for shooting grizzly instead of black bear

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

A Wyoming hunter was recently fined for shooting a grizzly bear instead of a black bear. The incident occurred last May on a hunt in the North Fork area. Joel Proffit was hunting with his teenage son and urged the boy to shoot the bear after he mistook it for a black bear. However, once the bear was dead and Proffit “got a better look” he realized his mistake and contacted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD), according to the Casper Star Tribune.

While the decision to contact WGFD was certainly a responsible one – and one praised by the judge in charge of the case – Proffit was still ordered to pay $10,000 for the mistaken ID. He has a year to pay the restitution fee for the dead bear along with the $120 in court fees and assessments. Under his plea deal, as long as he obeys the law for the next year and pays the fine, his case will be dismissed without “a finding of guilt.”

“I’m convinced, I know from reading the reports [that] you did the right thing immediately, as you should have done. And that speaks very well of you,” said Circuit Court Judge Ed Luhm. “So I’m looking forward to you being successful here in your probation, so this will be dismissed.”

The same thing has occurred before. Back in 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigated the deaths of two grizzly bears that were killed by black bear hunters in the same week. The grizzlies – one male, one female –were both killed on the Rocky Mountain Front west of Great Falls, Montana. 

Grizzly bears remain protected under the Endangered Species Act within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and cannot be hunted.


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