Moses Lake men face charges in grizzly bear killing

SPOKANE -- Two Grant County men are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Spokane on Tuesday to face charges stemming from the killing of a grizzly bear in October 2007.

Federal prosecutors allege that the men, Brandon Rodeback and Kurtis Cox, possessed an unlawfully taken grizzly bear, and that they transported that bear.

The first charge is punishable by up to six months in jail and a $25,000 fine. The second charge is punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $100,000 fine, said Tom Rice, a spokesman for the prosecutor.

The men, who apparently live in the Moses Lake and Warden area, could not be reached for comment but an affidavit filed by the court states they told authorities they thought they had shot a black bear.

The men are scheduled to appear in court at 1:30 p.m., Rice said.

Deputy Chief Mike Cenci of Washington Fish and Wildlife Enforcement said this is the first case involving an unlawfully taken grizzly in the 20 years he has worked for the agency. He said the bear had an ear tag and had been tracked by wildlife officials.

"Any taking at all is a major setback to their recovery efforts," he said.

He noted that there may be only a dozen grizzlies in the Selkirk Mountains, which straddle the Washington-Idaho border, where the grizzly was alleged to have been shot and killed Oct. 1, 2007.

Cenci said he could not comment on how experienced the hunters were but noted that one or both of the men had a moose tag, "which is something coveted by hunters and you have to have a real interest in hunting to stay with it and stay successful in drawing one of those tags."

Rodeback also had a black bear hunting tag, court documents said.

The case came to light a few days after the grizzly was killed when another hunter called authorities to say he saw what he suspected was a grizzly in the back of a pickup in the Ione area in Pend Oreille County. He provided a license plate number of the men, who he said were between 25 years old and their early 30s.

Authorities interviewed the men suspected of possessing and transporting the bear.

Its carcass was later recovered, buried at a farm in Grant County.

Cenci said hunters should be aware of the differences between black bears and grizzlies.

"We've gone to great lengths to educate hunters," he said.

Among other differences, the facial features of a grizzly are dish-shaped and it has smaller ears than a black bear. The facial features of a black bear are straighter.