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).

Decision AHC4806-2017 Decision AHC4806-2017 (Original case in Spanish below; English translation attached as pdf). The Supreme Court of Justice rules in favor of the spectacled bear, ‘Chucho’, granting him the habeas corpus after the bear’s attorney challenged the lower court decision that denied it. Chucho is a 22 year old spectacled bear that was born and raised in semi-captivity. He lived for 18 years in a natural reserve in the city of Manizales with his sister. After his sister died, Chucho became depressed and started escaping. The environmental authorities thought that it would be in the best interest of the bear to relocate him, for which they decided to move him to a zoo in the northern of Colombia. Unfortunately, the living conditions of Chucho were diminished, as he went from living in semi-captivity to living into a smaller area. Attorney Luis Domingo Maldonado filed an habeas corpus in representation of the bear that was denied on first instance by the civil chamber of the Superior Tribunal of Manizales. Attorney Luis Domingo Maldonado argued that the current legal system did not have a specific proper mechanism that allowed the taking of immediate and urgent measures to protect the rights of animals as sentient beings to retire them for centers of captivity when they have spent their lives in natural reserves. He also used as examples the precedents from Brazil and Argentina where a chimpanzee and an orangutan were granted habeas corpus. Attorney Maldonado sought that the court order the immediate and permanent relocation of Chucho to the natural reserve ‘La Planada’, located in the Department of Narino. The Civil Chamber reversed the decision on first instance, and ordered the relocation of Chucho from the zoo in Barranquilla to a more appropriate location of semi-captivity conditions. In its reasoning, the magistrate judge stated that animals are entitled to rights as sentient beings, not as humans, and that the idea is to insert a morality of respect to counter a global ecological public order where the tendency of men is to destroy the habitat. After long considerations, the chamber stated that it is necessary to modify the concept of ‘subject of rights’ in relation with nature, understanding that who is subject of rights is not necessarily correlatively-bound to have duties. “The legal, ethical and political purpose is the unavoidable need to create a strong conscience to protect the vital environment for the survival of men, conservation of the environment and as a frontal fight against the irrationality in the man-nature relationship.”
Decision STL12651-2017 Decision STL12651-2017 The Labor Cassation Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice decided on an action of ‘tutela’ filed by la Fundación Botánica y Zoológica de Barranquilla, Fundazoo against the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, Luis Domingo Gómez Maldonado, Corpocaldas and others. The Plaintiffs argued that the Defendants had violated their rights to due process and right to defense, as well as the principle of legality and contradiction, when the Defendant ordered the transfer of the spectacled bear ‘Chucho’ from the Barranquilla zoo to a natural reserve in Narino. Plaintiff sought to leave without effect Decision AHC4806 2017 that granted habeas corpus to ‘Chucho’, the spectacled bear, allowing the bear to stay at the Barranquilla Zoo, which according to Plaintiffs, is able to provide Chucho with all the requirements for his well being, including veterinary care, food, companionship and infrastructure. The Labor Chamber decided for the Plaintiff and left without effect the decision of the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, arguing that the Civil Chamber had ruled based on norms that did not apply to the specific case, to a point that the effects of such application had resulted in an interpretation that completely deferred to what the legislative had intended. The Civil Chamber, the court said in its reasoning, wrongly applied the procedure of habeas corpus, which led to the violation of the due process of law of the Plaintiffs, as ‘Chucho’ has no legal capacity to be a party in a legal procedure. The labor chamber explained that from a constitutional view, the granting of habeas corpus for the protection of animals was not proper, as it is established to protect the right to freedom of persons, which is the basis for a society. For that reason, it can only be attributable to human beings that can be individualized. This rules out the other beings to use this mechanism, including legal persons, as it would erode the real essence of this legal mechanism, the court stated. Furthermore, the magister judge states that the legal treatment that has been given to animals corresponds to the sentients beings, which implies their protection, rather than persons. This means that humans have the responsibility to respect animals, but does not imply that animals can fight for their freedom through the mechanism of habeas corpus, in these cases the defense of animals cannot be resolved by giving them the status of persons, but rather through judicial mechanisms such as popular actions (for the protection of collective and diffuse rights and interests), or with preventive material apprehension
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 867 F.3d 499 (4th Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138 S. Ct. 1003 (2018) 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. Charette 893 F.3d 1169 (9th Cir., 2018) Defendant Charette was convicted by bench trial of taking a grizzly bear behind his home in Montana in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act. On appeal, defendant challenges his conviction on three grounds: (1) there was insufficient evidence to infer that he did not have a permit to take the grizzly bear; (2) his request for a jury trial was improperly denied; and (3) the lower court incorrectly analyzed his self-defense claim under an objective standard as opposed to the correct subjective standard. On appeal here, the court observed that the plain language of the ESA and legislative history makes it clear that permits and exceptions under the ESA are affirmative defenses, and not elements of the crime. In this case, Charette had the burden of proving the existence of a valid permit, which he did not do at trial. The court also quickly dispensed with the Sixth Amendment jury trial issue, finding that the taking of a grizzly bear is a petty offense. As to defendant's last argument on his self-defense claim, this court did find that the trial court erred in applying an objectively reasonable standard. This error was not harmless because it affected defendant's decision to testify as to his subjective belief in the need for self-defense. As a result, this court reversed the district court's decision, vacated defendant's conviction, and remanded the case for further proceedings.
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.
WildEarth Guardians v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service 342 F. Supp. 3d 1047 (D. Mont. 2018) In 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (The Service) issued regulations implementing the CITES Program for certain Appendix II species that are in the United States which include bobcats, gray wolves, river otters, Canada lynx, and brown grizzly bears. Under the regulations, certain requirements must be met prior to the species exportation from the Unites States. The Service annually distributes export tags to approved states and tribes which are then distributed to trappers, hunters, and other individuals seeking to export furbearer species. The Service drafted an incidental take statement setting a cap on the amount of Canada lynx that are allowed to be killed or injured while bobcats are hunted. Plaintiffs brought this action claiming that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by not adequately analyzing the direct, indirect, and cumulative effects of the CITES Program and by not preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It is further alleged that the 2001 and 2012 Biological Opinions and Incidental Take Statement referenced and incorporated in the Environmental Assessment that the Service conducted is deficient under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Center for Biological Diversity filed a separate action raising similar NEPA claims. The two actions were consolidated into one and the WildEarth case was designated as the lead case. The Service and the intervenors challenged the Plaintiff's standing to bring their claims. The District Court found that the plaintiffs have standing to bring their claims. As for the NEPA claims, the Court held that the only time an EIS is necessary is when a specific agency action alters the status quo. In this case, the Court found no identifiable agency action that would alter the status quo. The Service has administered the CITES Export Program since 1975 and it does not propose "any site-specific activity nor call for specific action directly impacting the physical environment." As for the EPA claims, in the Incidental Take Statement drafted by the Service, the authorized level of take is set as follows: "two (2) lynx may be killed and two (2) injured annually due to trapping over the 10-year term of th[e] biological opinion." The Plaintiffs argued that the use of the word "and" in the "Two and Two" standard was ambiguous. The District Court agreed and held that as currently worded, the "two and two" fails to set an adequate trigger for take because it is not clear whether one or both are necessary to exceed the trigger. The Plaintiffs also argue that the terms "annually" and "injury" are ambiguous. The District Court held that "annually" was ambiguous, however, it was not enough to independently make the statement arbitrary and capricious. The Court also held that the Service's use of the word "injury" was both overbroad and underinclusive. The Service's interpretation and use of the term is arbitrary and capricious in the context of this case. The Court found that the reporting requirements were arbitrary and capricious and that the take statement does not set forth reasonable and prudent measures to minimize the impact of incidental taking on the species. The Service provides states and tribes with a brochure with information on lynx identification and other information every time bobcat tags are issued, however the brochures are not required to be given out by states and tribes, it is merely recommended. The District Court ultimately Denied the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment as to their NEPA claims and granted it as to their ESA claims. The incidental take statement was remanded to the Service for further review and clarification.