Trial set for man who killed bear near his kids

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — A north Idaho man charged with killing a male grizzly bear that supporters say wandered into his yard where his children were playing has pleaded not guilty in federal court.

Jeremy M. Hill, 33, of Porthill was arraigned Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Coeur d'Alene on a misdemeanor charge of unlawfully taking a federally protected species.

The hearing for Hill drew dozens of supporters who claim he was doing nothing more than protecting his family when the bear, accompanied by two other bears, ambled on to his rural, 20-acre property near the Canadian border on May 8.

The crowd was so big that the magistrate judge moved the hearing to a bigger courtroom.

Federal prosecutors say Hill shot the bear with a bolt-action rifle, but they have shared few other details of their investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Cook declined to comment to reporters after the hearing.

A jury trial has been set for Oct. 4. If convicted, Hill could face penalties of up to one year in prison and fines up to $50,000. He has been appointed a federal public defender and is free on bond.

The Endangered Species Act classifies the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 states, and it is protected by federal law.