Game Law Violations


Know Your Bears

Being sure of your target is one of the fundamental rules of safe hunting. Violating this rule can cost hundreds of dollars and a great deal of embarrassment.

A Wyoming hunter found this out in May when he went black bear hunting west of Thermopolis. He mistakenly shot and killed a 5-year-old male grizzly bear weighing approximately 350 pounds, thinking that he had taken an uncommon, blonde-phased black bear.

The bear, drawn to a bait site on the Middle Fork of Owl Creek, was feeding on the hunter-provided bait when the hunter made the wrong decision to take it.

“ It was just about dark when he shot the bear. Unfortunately, he did not take the time to identify those physical characteristics that hunters must use to differentiate between black and grizzly bears,” said Thermopolis Game Warden Tim Fuchs. Only after the bear was dead did the hunter recognize that the paws and claws were too large to be a black bear.

“To his credit, he immediately called me on his cellular telephone to report the violation,” Fuchs said.

As a matter of protocol, Special Agent Tim Eicher of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was notified and assisted with the interviews and investigation.

In accordance with federal law, investigators must determine whether or not the killing of the grizzly had been intentional or unintentional. After interviewing the hunter, Eicher determined that the situation appeared to be an “unintentional take” of a grizzly bear during the black bear hunting season, and therefore the Wyoming Game and Fish Department should conduct the investigation.

A follow-up investigation of the bait site and the details of the event as reported by the hunter were consistent with the physical evidence found at the scene.

The 33-year-old man, was cited for taking a grizzly bear without a proper license. He posted and forfeited his $780 bond.

“It is unfortunate that this happened. We’ve tried to be proactive,” Fuchs said. “We offered a three-hour ‘Living in Bear and Mountain Lion Country’ workshop in Thermopolis earlier this spring. The objective of the workshop was to provide hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts with the information necessary to properly identify bears and avoid conflicts. Only three people from our community attended.” 

Fuchs also noted that the G&F’s website ( now includes a bear identification test where hunters and others can test their bear identification skills. The site has links to related bear education materials.


Theft of a Different Kind

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is offering up to a $250 reward for information about the recent theft of a wildlife water storage tank that was purchased with public contributions following last year's Rodeo-Chediski fire.

Bob Birkeland, field supervisor in the department's Pinetop office says, "About the middle of April, someone stole a 2,500-gallon water storage tank from the Bear Springs area, which is a Game and Fish Department property located 10 miles southeast of Heber/Overgaard, adjacent to Forest Road 124. This is in an area that was severely affected by the Rodeo-Chediski Fire."

What is significant about the tank is that it, along with several others, was acquired with public donations in an outpouring of concern over the well being of wildlife in the immediate aftermath of the fire. "It was set up in a strategic location as a critical water source for wildlife. In light of the ongoing drought and lack of other waters in the area, the loss of the tank is quite disheartening," Birkeland reported.

The stolen water storage container is a 2,500-gallon, black polyethylene water tank. Birkeland notes that it also had the words "Wildlife for Tomorrow" spray-painted in large, white letters on its side. "Whoever took this tank would have had to remove the paint with sandpaper or paint over it," he says. "Either way, there should be some markings on its side. The sheer size of the tank would make it noticeable if someone moved it down the road, or placed it at their residence."

To report information on this or any wildlife violation, call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-352-0700.

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