Boundary prosecutor offers grizzly killing account

Official believes Idaho man acted reasonably to defend his family

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The Boundary County prosecutor has now released the most detailed account yet of the killing of a young grizzly bear by a North Idaho property owner on May 8.

Prosecutor Jack Douglas said that while he hasn't been involved in prosecuting the case against the property owner, Jeremy M. Hill, 33, he has been gathering all the facts he can about the case.

Douglas concluded that Hill was "forced to take lethal action against one of three animals," when he shot and killed a 2-year-old male grizzly bear that was with its mother and sibling.

According to Douglas' findings, Hill, his wife Rachel, and four of their six children were home together when the incident unfolded about 7 p.m. on the Hills' 20-acre ranch, which fronts Highway 1, near Porthill.

The children were outside playing basketball in front of the house and Rachel, not feeling well, had gone to lay down. Hill was showering.

His wife, not able to sleep, looked out her bedroom window and spotted the bears an estimated 40 yards from where the kids were playing. She ran outside, shouting for the kids to get in the house.

Hill, finishing a shower, heard the screams and looked outside.

Seeing the bears, he grabbed the only weapon at hand, a rifle, which was wrapped and unloaded. He found three bullets, loaded the weapon and raced outside. He didn't know where his children or his wife were exactly, but could hear his wife's panicked screams.

He stepped out onto the back deck from their bedroom and saw one of the bears climbing halfway up the side of a pen for the children's pigs.

He ran out and fired a shot at the bear closest to him. The other two bears, alarmed by the crack of the rifle, darted away from the pig pen toward the forest behind his house.

"He didn't fire at the retreating bears because they no longer posed a threat," Douglas said.

The grizzly on the fence was hit, and he tumbled off, then got up and ran off, limping slightly.

The family dog went after the injured bear, which was heading in the same direction the other two had fled.

The bear, only a few yards from the house, turned and charged straight toward where Hill was standing by a large basement window under the deck.

Fearing there was nothing but him and a large pane of glass to keep the wounded bear out of his house, Jeremy took aim and fired again.

The bullet hit the grizzly and the bear rolled to the ground, tried to get up, then fell back down.

Thinking the ordeal was over, Hill went back into the house and went to find his family.

He picked the 10-month-old baby off the bed, and found Rachel with the other children.

Hill asked his wife to get the phone book so he could call the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, but before he could dial, he looked out and saw that the bear, already shot twice, was trying to crawl to the woods.

The animal stopped behind a tree, wounded but not dead, and Hill took up the rifle again, carefully walked over to the bear, unsure if it was dead or alive, but knowing that a wounded grizzly bear posed a significant threat.

Using the last bullet, he fired a final shot, putting the bear out of his misery and ending the threat, Douglas said.

"Grizzly bears are unpredictable, dangerous predators," Douglas said.

He said he has no doubt Hill was defending his family and property.

"I believe that our local (Fish and Game) officers did a thorough investigation and came to the proper conclusion that Jeremy Hill acted reasonably in light of the circumstances," Douglas said.

A federal criminal charge was filed against Hill on Aug. 8, as the grizzly bear is a threatened species, and he now faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $50,000. Hill pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene, and his defense attorney has said they'll be arguing the killing was done in defense of Hill's family. Trial is scheduled for Oct. 4.

Despite not being involved, Douglas said he is confident in the facts he described in his statement sent to media outlets.

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