A Castleton man will stand trial for killing a bear on his property in August 2017.
Mingo Gritts, 44, appeared in Moab’s Seventh District Court on Wednesday, Jan. 23 for a preliminary hearing before Judge Lyle Anderson on a charge of third-degree felony wanton destruction of protected wildlife. The charge stems from an incident Gritts reported to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Officer Adam Wallerstein — after Gritts said his dog treed a sow bear and he shot it with a shotgun he retrieved from his home.
“[Gritts] got up in the middle of the night and went outside ... his dog came out with him and started barking and chasing something, which Mingo had said before was not uncommon,” Wallerstein told prosecutor Andrew Fitzgerald. “He heard the barking and commotion and took a flashlight, following the dog. It had treed the sow and he saw the sow at that time. [Gritts] said he went back into his house, got his shotgun and returned to the tree and shot the bear out of the tree.”
According to Wallerstein, a total of four shotgun shells were found at the scene of the shooting. A cub bear that was with the sow was unharmed and taken to a rehabilitation center by Wallerstein the day after the incident. Wallerstein also stated during his testimony that incursions by bears onto Gritts’ property have been a problem in past years.
Gritts’ defense attorney, Don Torgerson, attacked Wallerstein’s testimony, claiming that Gritts had told the officer he fired on the bear to protect his dog, which can be claimed as a defense to killing wildlife in Utah. While Wallerstein admitted that Gritts claimed defense of the dog as a reason for shooting the bear, it did not make sense to the officer since treed bears “will not attack dogs” under any circumstances.
Gritts did not testify during the hearing and Torgerson called no witnesses on his behalf. Gritts pleaded not guilty and his trial date is set for April 17.