Friday, July 30, 2010

Officials Trap Three Bears Believed Responsible for Yellowstone Attack

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials trapped a female grizzly bear and two yearling cubs that are believed to be responsible for injuring two people and killing a Grand Rapids, Michigan man in separate attacks Wednesday morning at a national forest campground near Cooke City. Officials have reset traps and snares to capture a third yearling cub.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials are investigating the attacks at Soda Butte Campground in the Gallatin National Forest, on the northeastern border of Yellowstone National Park.

FWP Warden Captain Sam Sheppard said he's confident that the bears responsible for the incidents have been captured. "We set up tents as they were the night before and the bear that returned didn't just sniff the tent, she destroyed it. We're pretty confident we have the right bear," he said.

Investigators found Kevin R. Kammer, 48, of Grand Rapids, Mich, dead at the campground early Wednesday morning. Two other people-Deb Freele, 58, of London, Ontario; and Ronald Singer, 21, of Alamosa, Colo.-were bitten and later treated at a hospital in Cody, Wyo.

FWP officials, in cooperation with the Gallatin National Forest, the National Park Service, the Park County Sherriff's Office, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have worked around the clock at the site collecting forensic evidence of the attacks and setting bear traps in and near the campground.

Bear hair, saliva and tissue samples collected by investigators were sent to a DNA identification lab in Laramie, Wyo. "We hope to have the DNA information Friday," said FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim in Helena.

Investigators also found a bear-tooth fragment in a tent at the site. Sheppard said the 300- to 400-pound female grizzly has a chipped canine tooth that appears to match the fragment. Tent or sleeping bag fibers have also been found in the captured bears' scat.

Aasheim said a team of grizzly bear experts will determine the ultimate fate of the bears. "The protocols of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee will be followed," he said.

Officials from the agencies will hold a community meeting at the Cooke City Chamber of Commerce today at 5:30 p.m. to discuss the incident.

Tents were ripped or damaged during the attacks, yet no food was found in the victims' tents. "Everyone appeared to have followed all food storage regulations," Aasheim said. "This is a tragedy caused by a bear for absolutely unknown reasons. Our hearts and prayers go out to all the families, and especially to the Kammer family in Grand Rapids," Aasheim said.

The Soda Butte Campground, the nearby Chief Joseph and Colter campgrounds, also in the Gallatin National Forest, remain closed.

For more information about living and recreating in bear country, visit FWP's website at Click "Be Bear Aware."