COEUR d'ALENE - The man who shot a wolf on Rathdrum Mountain turned down a plea deal offered by Kootenai County prosecutors that would have had him pay a $200 fine in exchange for a guilty plea.
He has opted instead for a jury trial.
"I said, 'Nope,'" Forrest Mize said shortly after his arraignment Tuesday morning. Prosecutor Barry McHugh confirmed the offer was made.
Mize is representing himself on the misdemeanor charge of possessing a wolf without a tag. He doesn't plan to hire an attorney at this stage.
"It's going to be really hard to find a jury in North Idaho that finds me guilty for shooting a wolf to save my stinking dogs," he said.
Mize, 53, shot the wolf Dec. 30 while he was out hiking in some fresh snow with his three dogs, all Labs, named Maggie, Jenny and Katie.
He was carrying a gun - a Kimber .22-caliber Hornet - with him for protection when he spotted the wolf, which he said looked like it was about to pounce on his pets. The dogs were 100 yards in front of him.
When he shot the wolf in the side through its heart, his three dogs were all close enough to be visible within the picture of his gun's scope, he said.
He bought a wolf hunting tag later that day for $11.50 at a Rathdrum pharmacy. He is not a trophy hunter, he said, but wanted to keep the pelt.
According to Mize, two Idaho Department of Fish and Game officers showed up at his house a week after the shooting.
The officers, he said, were suspicious that he had purchased a wolf tag for 2014 on the next to the last day of the year, leaving him only one day to get a wolf.
At that point, he said, he admitted to having shot the wolf before buying the tag.
"I did the right thing, I just did it in the wrong order," he said. "I'm not going to buy a tag (in advance), because I don't hunt for wolves."
He didn't know there was a wolf near his home on the mountain.
Additionally, he said, he figured the officers would have some "understanding" for his perceived need to shoot the wolf in defense of his dogs.
Fish and Game declined a records request from The Press for any incident report that might have been created detailing the agency's investigation findings.
Fish and Game confiscated the wolf's pelt, which was already at a taxidermist, after finding Mize had killed the animal prior to purchasing a tag.