COOKE CITY – The last grizzly bear believed involved in the fatal mauling of a Michigan man at a campground near Yellowstone National Park has been captured, and Montana wildlife officials are awaiting DNA tests to confirm their suspicions.
A sow and two of her three cubs had been trapped by Thursday while the final year-old cub was found in a culvert trap early Friday. The bears, still held in the culvert traps, left the Soda Butte campground in a three-truck convoy Friday morning, bound for the state wildlife lab in Bozeman.
Fibers from a tent or sleeping bag were in the captured bears’ droppings, and a tooth fragment found in a tent appears to match a chipped tooth on the 300- to 400-pound sow. But officials say they will decide the bears’ fate only after seeing the results of DNA tests that are expected Friday.
“Everything points to it being the offending bear, but we are not going to do anything until we have DNA samples,” said Ron Aasheim, a spokesman for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Evidence indicates all three cubs were present for and likely participated in what Warden Capt. Sam Sheppard called a sustained attack on Kevin Kammer of Grand Rapids, Mich. He was pulled out his tent and dragged 25 feet and the bears fed on his body.
The two other victims, Deb Freele of London, Ontario, and Ronald Singer, of Alamosa, Colo., were hospitalized in Cody, Wyo. Singer, 21, was treated and released, and Freele was scheduled to have surgery Friday for bite wounds and a broken bone in her arm, said West Park Hospital spokesman Joel Hunt.
Cooke City resident Cliff Browne, 70, said visitors and residents of the Yellowstone gateway community would be relieved to hear the news of the final capture.
Living in proximity to grizzlies is part of life and he said he’s not particularly scared of bears, but this one was different, he said.
“I hate to see them have to put it down, and I’m not one of those bleeding-heart environmental protectionists, but I don’t see any choice,” Browne said Friday morning.
Messages left Thursday for Kammer’s mother-in-law and brother-in-law in Michigan were not returned Thursday.
Singer and his mother, Luron Singer, did not immediately return e-mail messages from the AP. But Luron Singer told The Denver Post that her son, a former high school wrestler, had been camping with his girlfriend.
When he felt the bear biting his leg, he started punching the animal, she said. His girlfriend screamed, and the bear ran away.
“He is doing fine,” Luron Singer told the Post. “He went fishing today.”
Freele said she couldn’t understand why the bear attacked her, because she posed no threat.
“If it was something that I had done — if I had walked into a female with cubs, and startled her, and she attacked me — I can understand that,” she said. “She was hunting us, with the intention of killing us and eating us.”
All the victims did the right thing, and there was no telling why the bear picked out those three tents, Sheppard said.
“She basically targeted the three people and went after them,” he said.
In 2008 at the same campground, a grizzly bear bit and injured a man sleeping in a tent. A young adult female grizzly was captured in a trap four days later and taken to a bear research center in Washington state.
Browne said he didn’t expect to change his routines because of the attacks.
“You can’t live in fear,” he said. “It’s not going to change my going out hiking.”
About 600 grizzly bears and hundreds of less-aggressive black bears live in the Yellowstone area. The grizzlies are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
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