Bears: Related Cases

Case namesort descending Citation Summary
Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Weber 979 F.Supp.2d 1118 (D.Mont.,2013)

An environmental group sued the U.S. Forest Service claiming it violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) when it permitted the implementation of the Flathead National Forest Precommercial Thinning Project. The court that the defendants' designation of matrix habitat was not arbitrary and that there was no showing of irreparable harm to lynx habitat to require the Service to be enjoined from implementing project. Likewise, plaintiffs’ claims regarding the grizzly bear’s critical habitat did not prevail; nor did the plaintiffs’ claims regarding the National Forest Management Act’s Inland Native Fish Strategy. The court, therefore, granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and denied the plaintiffs' motion.

Cabinet Resource Group v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 465 F.Supp.2d 1067 (D. Mont. 2006)

The Forest Service builds roads in National Forests, and has to determine what density of road coverage is safe for grizzly bear survival in making its Land Use Plan. Here, the Land Use Plan did not violate the Endangered Species Act, because an agency action is not required to help the survival of an endangered species, it simply may not reduce the likelihood of survival and recovery of the endangered species, grizzly bears. However, because the Forest Service relied upon a scientific study with acknowledged weaknesses to make its road standards, but failed to adequately address those weaknesses in its Final Environmental Impact Statement, the Forest Service violated NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act).

Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Inc. v. Servheen 665 F.3d 1015 (C.A.9 (Mont.), 2011)

Coalition sued for a review of a United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) final rule to remove grizzly bears from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) threatened species list. The Court of Appeals held that there was no rational connection between data that showed a relationship between pine seed shortages, increased bear mortality, and decreased female reproductive success and FWS’ conclusion that whitebark pine declines were not likely to threaten grizzly bears. FWS could reasonably conclude that National Forest Plans and National Park Compendia (Plans) provided adequate regulatory mechanisms to protect grizzlies as recovered species. The portion of the District Court's ruling vacating the Final Rule was affirmed.

Hill v. Coggins --- F.3d ----, 2017 WL 3471259 (4th Cir. Aug. 14, 2017) In 2013, Plaintiffs visited Defendants' zoo, the Cherokee Bear Zoo, in North Carolina where they observed four bears advertised as grizzly bears in what appeared to Plaintiffs as substandard conditions. As a result, Plaintiffs filed a citizen suit in federal district court alleging the Zoo's practice of keeping the bears was a taking of a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). In essence, Plaintiffs contend the Zoo's conduct was a form of harassment under the ESA, and so they sought injunctive relief. After denying the Zoo's motions for summary judgment, the district court held a bench trial where the court ruled against Plaintiffs on the issue of the Zoo's liability under the ESA. The manner in which the bears were kept did not constitute a taking for purposes of the ESA. On appeal to the Fourth Circuit, this Court first found Plaintiffs established Article III standing for an aesthetic injury. Second, the Court agreed with the district court that evidence showed these bears were grizzly bears. While the Defendant-Zoo's veterinarian testified at trial that they are European brown bears, the collective evidence including expert testimony, veterinary records, USDA reports, and the Zoo's own advertising justified the lower court's conclusion that the bears are threatened grizzly bears. As to the unlawful taking under the ESA, the Fourth Circuit vacated the lower court's holding and remanded the case to district court. The legal analysis used by the court was incorrect because the court did not first determine whether the Zoo's practices were "generally accepted" before it applied the exclusion from the definition of harassment. The lower court based its conclusion on the fact that the Zoo met applicable minimum standards under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and did not explore whether these standards were "generally accepted." Affirmed in part, vacated and remanded.
State v. Walker 841 N.E.2d 376 (Ohio 2005)

A dog owner was placed on probation which limited him from having any animals on his property for five years.  While on probation, bears on the owner's property were confiscated after getting loose.  The trial court ordered the dog owner to pay restitution for the upkeep of the confiscated bears, but the Court of Appeals reversed holding the trial court did not the authority to require the dog owner to pay restitution for the upkeep of the bears because the forfeiture of animals penalty did not apply to conviction for failure to confine or restrain a dog.

U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection 867 A.2d 1147 (N.J. 2005)

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Division of Fish and Wildlife executed an administrative order preventing the issuance of bear hunting permits.  Hunters and hunting organizations sought judicial review of the administrative decision.  The Supreme Court of New Jersey ultimately held it was within the authority of the Environmental Protection Commissioner to approve policies of the Fish & Wildlife Council and, therefore, execute the administrative order against bear hunting permits.

U.S. v. Senchenko 133 F.3d 1153 (9th Cir. 1998)

During the two year period alleged in the indictment, between September 1993 and September 1995, government agents found or were directed to four illegal bear snares in Colville National Forest, Washington that were later linked to defendant.  The Lacey Act provision that makes it felony to knowingly engage in conduct that involves intent to sell wildlife with market value in excess of $350 encompasses several types of conduct in furtherance of commercial activity (transporting, selling, receiving, acquiring, and purchasing wildlife) and government could aggregate value of parts related to such conduct to arrive at requisite $350 value, because defendant's various acts formed a single continuing scheme.

United States of America v. Kraft 2005 WL 578313 (U.S., Dist. of Minn. 2005)

A man was charged and convicted for violating the Lacey Act after illegally selling a tiger and grizzly bear.  The trial court admitted the man's conversation into evidence in which he implicated himself in the illegal sale of a grizzly bear.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court holding the man's conversation was not protected by the Sixth Amendment because it was made before there were specific charges against him for the illegal sale of the grizzly bear.

United States v. Charette Slip Copy, 2017 WL 1012974 (D. Mont. Mar. 15, 2017)

In this case, Brian F. Charette filed an appeal after he was sentenced to six months of imprisonment and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution for shooting and killing a grizzly bear in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Charette argued three issues on appeal: (1) that the trial court's denial of a jury trial violated his constitutional rights; (2) that the trial court erred in defining the elements of his charged offense; and (3) that the trial court erred in denying Charette's Rule 29 motion for a judgment of acquittal. The court found that the trial court did not err in denying a jury trial because Charette’s offense was considered a petty offense because it carried a maximum sentence of six months. For all crimes that are considered petty offenses, the Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury is not triggered. Lastly, the court addressed Charette’s Rule 29 motion which calls for an acquittal if the essential elements of the offense are not proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In order for someone to be convicted of knowingly taking an endangered species the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt, that: (1) the defendant knowingly killed the animal; (2) the animal was engendered; (3) the defendant had no permit to kill the animal; and (4) the defendant did not act in self-defense or defense of others. Charette argued that the government failed to prove that he did not have a permit to kill the grizzly bear. The court ultimately found that the government did prove this element on the basis that Charette told officers that he did not report shooting the bear because he did not want to deal with the “hassle.” The court found that it was reasonable to believe that had Charette had a permit to kill the grizzly bear, he would not have found reporting it to be a hassle and therefore the government sufficiently established this element. As a result, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision. 

United States v. Wallen 874 F.3d 620 (9th Cir. 2017) Defendant appeals his conviction for unlawfully killing three grizzly bears in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). The killing of the bears occurred on May 27, 2014 at defendant's residence in Ferndale, Montana ("bear country" as the court described). In the morning, defendant discovered bears had killed over half of his chickens maintained in a coop. Later that evening, the bears returned, heading toward the coop. Defendant's children, who were playing outside at the time, headed inside and defendant proceeded to scare the bears away with his truck. Later that night, the bears returned and were shot by defendant. According to testimony by enforcement officers, defendant gave two different accounts of what happened that night. Ultimately, defendant was charged for killing the bears in violation of the ESA and convicted by a magistrate judge after raising an unsuccessful self-defense argument. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) he should have been tried by a jury; (2) the magistrate judge did not correctly identify the elements of his offense, and that error was not harmless; and (3) the case should be remanded for a trial by jury in the interest of justice. With regard to (1), that he was entitled to a jury trial because the offense was serious, rather than petty, the appellate court rejected the argument. The possibility of a five-year probation term and $15,000 restitution did not transform the crime, which had a maximum 6-month imprisonment, into a serious offense. On the second and third arguments, the court agreed that magistrate erroneously relied on a self-defense provision from a federal assault case that required the "good faith belief" to be objectively reasonable. The court held that the "good faith" requirement for § 1540(b)(3) should be based on a defendant's subjective state of mind. Then, the ultimate question becomes whether that subjective good faith belief was reasonably held in good faith. Said the Court, "[u]nder the Endangered Species Act, the reasonableness of a belief that an endangered animal posed a threat is likewise strong evidence of whether the defendant actually held that belief in good faith." As a result, the appellate court found the error by the magistrate in rejecting defendant's self-defense claim was not harmless. As to whether defendant is entitled to a jury trial on remand, the court found that the outcome of the prior proceedings conducted by a magistrate do not constitute a showing of bias or partiality. Thus, he is not entitled to trial by jury. The conviction was vacated and proceedings remanded.