Idaho Wardens Kill Bear In Crowded Park; Is Region In For Another Busy Bear Year?

There was trouble with black bears all over the Rocky Mountain West last summer and this year is getting off to an early start. Idaho game agents on Sunday killed a bear in a crowded city park. It could be an indication that this summer could be another doozy.

Mark Heinz

June 06, 20245 min read

A young black bear on the deck of a home in this file photo.
A young black bear on the deck of a home in this file photo. (Getty Images)

When it comes to human-bear conflicts in Wyoming and across the region, grizzlies usually steal the spotlight, but there’s also been plenty of trouble with black bears.

Most recently, Idaho Fish and Game agents killed an adult male black bear Sunday after it refused to leave a crowded city park in Riggins, a town in southwest Idaho.

“It had been hanging around Riggins for a couple of weeks. We had been getting calls from the city about it,” Idaho Fish and Game Southwest Region spokesman Brian Pearson told Cowboy State Daily.

Wardens tried hazing the bear away and admonished townspeople to “button up” their garbage and other temptations for the bear, he said.

“It was still getting access to human food sources. And over time, showing more and more boldness toward humans,” Pearson said.

The final straw came when the bear was stubbornly hanging out in a city park “during a large public gathering” and multiple attempts to scare it away failed, according to Fish and Game.

It wasn’t the first black bear incident this year in the region.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife agents and city police took a somewhat kinder, gentler approach last month when a black bear refused to come down out of a tree in Golden, Colorado. They tried to drive the bear away by blasting Black Sabbath’s iconic heavy metal anthem “Iron Man” at it from a drone’s speakers.

The music didn’t bother the bear, which eventually wandered off on its own.

Bear Problems Usually Start With People Problems

A grizzly has grabbed the biggest headlines so far this year.

Shayne Patrick Burke, a 35-year-old military veteran from Massachusetts, was severely injured last month after he startled a female grizzly and her cub in Grand Teton National Park and was mauled by the mother bear.

But black bears are nothing to trifle with either. And trouble with them usually starts when people make poor choices, Wyoming Game and Fish Large Carnivore Specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily.

“We work to reduce conflict potential through outreach and education and making sure black bears aren't able to obtain human foods through securing attractants, proper electric fencing and management actions on bears when necessary — hazing or capture,” he said.

“There is always a potential for conflicts, so I guess that would be considered an ‘ongoing issue,’ but that doesn't mean that we can't have healthy black bear population and amazing recreational opportunities throughout the state,” Thompson added.

2023 Was Wild

There were numerous conflicts with black bears in Wyoming and across the Intermountain West last year. Those included some instances of people ending up hurt and bears getting killed.

There were numerous run-ins with black bears in and around Sheridan last spring and summer, and Game and Fish wardens ended up having to kill two of them.

There were several reports of black bears in settled areas in Idaho, and things got really wild one August night in Montana.

A man in the tiny Montana town of Luther near the Wyoming state line shot and killed a black bear in his living room after the bear broke into his house in the middle of the night.

And in Colorado last August, a black bear snuck up and bit a man on his arm as we was relaxing in a hammock.

Things Went Too Far In Riggins

Like Wyoming, Idaho has a healthy population of black bears, Pearson said. And except for the incident in Riggins, things have been quiet so far this year, and he hopes it stays that way.

Riggins sits amid some wild country, and black bears and other critters will occasionally wander near or even through town, Pearson said.

Idaho has a growing population of grizzlies too, but so far none of those have shown up anywhere near Riggins, he added.

As in Wyoming communities, people and wildlife typically co-exist peacefully, Pearson said. With bears, the trouble always seems to begin once a bear starts to see settled areas a good food source.

“Bears always take the path of least resistance toward fattening up,” Pearson said. “As soon as bears come out of hibernation in the spring, they’re trying to fatten back up, and human-provided food sources, such as bird seed, can be tempting.”

Idaho’s policy is similar to Wyoming’s, he said. Game agents would much rather haze away or capture and relocate bears. Killing them is a last resort.

But the bear in Riggins had just gotten too persistent and apparently lost all fear of humans, Pearson said.

On Sunday in the park, “It walked pretty close to a large group of people, with loud music playing — things you would expect a bear to not want to be around,” he said.

Just Basic Common Sense

Whether 2024 will shape up to be another doozy when it comes to black bear incidents remains to be seen.

But regardless, the blame can’t be put on bears, or any wild animals, for just doing what they do. The responsibility for avoiding conflict falls on people, Thompson said.

“People need to respect all wildlife; keep clean camps and refrain from foolish activities such as approaching wildlife or ultra-foolish activities such as feeding wildlife, bears included, on the road or at campsites in order to see them closer or take pictures,” he said.

Mark Heinz can be reached at

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter