34-year-old Cut Bank rancher has agreed to pay a $2,000 fine for illegally shooting and killing a grizzly bear on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Jim Seewald said he was checking on his cattle in May 2008 east of the Port of Del Bonita near the Canadian border when he saw the bear feeding on a cow carcass. Seewald, who called the shooting "straight up self defense," shot the bear with a .22-caliber rifle and then returned to kill it with a larger caliber rifle.

He reported the shooting to fish and game authorities on the reservation the next morning.

Special Agent Brian Lakes of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said an investigation determined that the rancher was not in imminent danger and the bear did not kill the cow.

As part of the agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Missoula, Seewald also must apologize for his actions in a letter to the editor of the Great Falls Tribune.

Meanwhile, authorities continue to investigate three additional grizzly bear deaths in northwestern Montana.

The Wildlife Service said Monday it would contribute $3,000 to the reward for information leading to the conviction of whoever shot a large grizzly bear to death west of Dupuyer. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, as well as the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, are together contributing another $3,000.

Lakes said he also is investigating the death of a grizzly bear discovered last month in the Bob Marshall Wilderness. In the third case, a rancher is claiming self defense when using a handgun to shoot and kill a female grizzly July 27 near East Glacier. Wildlife officials are investigating whether that shooting was justified.

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