Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks warden Captain Sam Sheppard said Thursday that he’s confident the bears responsible for the fatal mauling of a Michigan man and attacks on others Wednesday at the Soda Butte Campground 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.
Wildlife officials set culvert traps in the campground not long after the attacks. A sow grizzly was captured at 6 p.m. Wednesday close to where Kevin Ronald Kammer was killed. Two of the bear’s three cubs were also trapped overnight.
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 Ron Aasheim, FWP spokesman 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 fate of the bears.
“The protocols of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee will be followed,” he said.
Also on Thursday, Ronald Singer, 21, of Alamosa, Colo., was identified as one of the three victims of the grizzly bear attack. He was treated and released from a Cody, Wyo., hospital Wednesday.
Singer was camping with his girlfriend’s family at the campground when the attack occurred at around 1:30 a.m. Wednesday. Singer reportedly hit the bear and scared it off. He was bitten in the calf and rode with his companions to the hospital in Cody for treatment.
Kammer, 48, of Grand Rapids, Mich., was killed that morning in the campground about a quarter-mile from Singer’s campsite. He was described by friends and family as an outdoors enthusiast on the trip of a lifetime.
“It is a unique place to go, and that is why he wanted to go there,” Kammer’s brother-in-law, Jim Howard, told the Times Herald in Port Huron, Mich., on Thursday. “No one would imagine that this would be a possible end to this trip.”
Howard said the family was still trying to process the news of his death.
“My sister as well as the whole family — we are really in a state of shock,” he said.
Kammer was married and had four children — ages 8, 9, 15 and 19, the Grand Rapids Press reported.
Patricia Howard, Kammer’s mother-in-law, praised him as a parent.
“He was a wonderful father. He took good care of his kids,” she said.
Also injured in the attack was Deb Freele, 58, of London, Ontario. She was to undergo surgery for bite wounds to her left arm today.
After Wednesday’s attacks, the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming’s Clark Fork River valley limited camping in campgrounds and dispersed areas from the Crazy Creek Campground to the Montana state line to hard-sided RVs only. Tent camping and pop-up campers are not allowed.
The restriction was implemented because of increased bear activity in the area. The Soda Butte, Colter and Chief Joseph campgrounds remain closed on the Montana side.
News of the maulings set residents and tourists on edge in Cooke City. Many were carrying bear spray, a pepper-based deterrent more commonly seen in Yellowstone’s backcountry than on the city’s streets.
Pennsylvania tourist Sheila McBride said she bought a can of the spray Thursday morning after hearing about the attacks. She and her husband had no plans to hike or camp but were driving through the park in a convertible and wanted to be prepared in case they were delayed in a remote area by road construction.
“We’ve got it in the back where we can grab it real easy,” McBride said, pointing to her BMW. “If we’re stuck in the convertible and a bear is coming over the mountain, we want to be ready.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
COOKE CITY — Wildlife officials on Thursday were testing the DNA of a captured grizzly bear to confirm if it was the animal that killed a Michigan man and injured two other campers in a rampage near Yellowstone National Park.
The sow, estimated to weigh 300 to 400 pounds, was lured into a trap fashioned from culvert pipe partially covered by pieces of the dead man's tent. She was left in place overnight Wednesday to attract her young, and by Thursday morning two of her year-old offspring were inside adjacent traps.
The third could be heard nearby through much of the day, calling out to its mother and eliciting heavy groans from the sow, which periodically rattled its steel cage. Wildlife officials were setting traps and exploring other ways of capturing the third cub, which they said could not be allowed to stay in the wild.
Montana wildlife officials identified the man killed in the early Wednesday mauling as Kevin Kammer, 48, of Grand Rapids, Mich. The bear pulled Kammer out his tent at the Soda Butte Campground and dragged him 25 feet to where his body was found, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim said.
Messages left Thursday for Kammer's mother-in-law and brother-in-law in Michigan were not immediately returned.
The other victims, Deb Freele of London, Ontario, and an unidentified male, were hospitalized in Cody, Wyo. The male 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.
News of the maulings set residents and tourists on edge in Cooke City, a Yellowstone gateway community tucked into the picturesque Absaroka Mountains. Many were carrying bear spray, a pepper-based deterrent more commonly seen in Yellowstone's backcountry than on the city's streets.
Pennsylvania tourist Sheila McBride said she bought a can of the spray Thursday morning after hearing news of the attacks. She and her husband had no plans to hike or camp but were driving through the park in a convertible and wanted to be prepared in case they were delayed in a remote area by any road construction.
"We've got it in the back where we can grab it real easy," McBride said, pointing to her BMW. "If we're stuck in the convertible and a bear is coming over the mountain, we want to be ready."
Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Capt. Sam Sheppard said he was confident the killer bear was the one they had captured because it came back to the site of the rampage, which started around 2 a.m. Wednesday.
Sheppard said it was a highly unusual predatory attack, with campers in three different tents mauled as they slept.
"She basically targeted the three people and went after them," Sheppard said. "It wasn't like an archery hunter who gets between a sow and her cubs and she responds to protect them."
Officials have said the sow will be killed if DNA evidence confirms it was the same bear that attacked the victims. Aasheim said the test results were expected by Friday.
"Everything points to it being the offending bear, but we are not going to do anything until we have DNA samples," Aasheim said.
State and federal wildlife officials will determine the fate of the cubs, which are feared to have learned predatory behavior from their mother.
Freele appeared on network morning shows Thursday to recount waking up just before she was bitten on her arm and leg.
"I screamed, he bit harder, I screamed harder, he continued to bite," she said, adding that she could hear her bones breaking.
"I told myself, play dead," she said in the interview from the hospital. "I went totally limp. As soon as I went limp, I could feel his jaws get loose and then he let me go."
Freele said the bear was silent.
"This, to me, was just an absolutely freaky thing," she said. "I have to believe that the bear was not normal. It was very quiet, it never made any noise. I felt like it was hunting me."
The bear attack was the most brazen in the Yellowstone area since the 1980s, wildlife officials 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.
"The suspicion among a lot of the residents is that the bear they caught (in 2008) was not the right one," said Gary Vincelette, who has a cabin in nearby Silver Gate.
Sheppard, the warden captain, said there was no truth to that.
The grizzly involved in the latest attack showed no outward signs of sickness or starvation that might have explained its unusual behavior, said Fish Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones.
About 600 grizzly bears and hundreds of less-aggressive black bears live in the Yellowstone area.
The region is pasted with hundreds of signs warning visitors to keep food out of the bruins' reach. Experts say bears who eat human food quickly become habituated to people, increasing the danger of an attack.
Yet in the case of the Wednesday's attack, all the victims had put their food into metal food canisters installed at campsite, Sheppard said.
"They were doing things right," he said. "It was random. I have no idea why this bear picked these three tents out of all the tents there."
The 10-acre Soda Butte Campground in Gallatin National Forest has 27 campsites.
Two other campgrounds were also closed while the attacking bear or bears remained at large.