Man Sentenced to Prison for Shooting Grizzly Bear in Lincoln County

Judge handed down six-month prison sentence and ordered Katzer to pay $5,000 in restitution

By Dillon Tabish

HELENA — A magistrate judge has sentenced a Washington state man to six months in prison for shooting and killing a grizzly bear in northwestern Montana last year.

Shalako Katzer of Mead and federal prosecutors previously reached a deal that called for a sentence of a year of unsupervised probation in exchange for a guilty plea to unlawful taking of a threatened species.

But U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch was not obligated to follow that recommendation. On Monday, he handed down the six-month prison sentence and ordered Katzer to pay $5,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors say Katzer was camping Lincoln County in May 2015 when he and his brother spotted a bear in the campground.

Katzer’s brother fired a rifle. The bear retreated, and the men followed it. Prosecutors say Katzer fired the fatal shot with a pistol.

A subsequent investigation proved that the bullet that killed the bear came from Katzer’s gun.

“This sentence sends a message to would-be grizzly killers” said United States Attorney Mike Cotter. “It tells them that the Department of Justice takes enforcement of federal wildlife protection laws seriously and that individuals who seek to harass and kill these protected animals, not out of self-defense, but apparently for sport, will pay the consequences.”

“Grizzly bears can obviously pose a safety risk to humans, but that risk can be diminished or eliminated through proper precautions and appropriate behavior. During this incident Mr. Katzer did not display appropriate behavior and the result was the unlawful killing of a threatened species. I appreciate our close working relationship with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Department of Justice, and the investigator’s and prosecutor’s efforts in seeing this violation through to legal resolution.” said Steve Oberholtzer, Special Agent in Charge for the USFWS.

On May 19, Lynch found Brian F. Charette, 42, of Ronan, guilty of unlawful taking of a threatened species in an unrelated trial. Charette had shot a grizzly bear on May 11, 2014, that he claimed was chasing his horses. Charette knew the bear was a grizzly and did not have a permit to take it. Sentencing will be set for a later date.