Killer grizzly bears captured in US

Last updated 07:29 30/07/2010

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A mother grizzly and two of her three cubs have been captured after killing a Michigan man and injuring two other people during an overnight rampage through a campground near Yellowstone National Park.

The mother, estimated to weigh 136kg to  180kg, was lured into a trap fashioned from culvert pipe set over the dead victim's tent Wednesday evening. The bear tore down the tent again and was caught in the trap, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim.

By Thursday morning, two of the year-old bears had been caught and the third could be heard nearby, calling out to its mother.

Montana wildlife officials on Thursday identified the man killed in the mauling as Kevin Kammer, 48, of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The bear pulled Kammer out his tent and dragged him 7.6m to where his body was found, Aasheim said.

The other victims, Deb Freele of London, Ontario, and an unidentified male, have been hospitalized in Cody, Wyoming.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Captain Sam Sheppard said he was confident they had captured the killer bear because it came back to the same site where the man was killed early Wednesday.

Sheppard described the rampage - in which campers in three different tents were mauled as they slept - as a highly unusual predatory attack.

"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 after DNA evidence confirms it was the same bear that attacked the victims.

"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. Sheppard said they are unlikely to be returned to the wild because they could have been learning predatory behaviour from their mother.

Freele said Thursday she was bitten on her arm and leg before she instinctively played dead so the animal would leave her alone.

Appearing on network morning shows from a Wyoming hospital, Freele said she woke up just before the bear bit her arm.

"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. "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."

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Freele suffered severe lacerations and crushed bones from bites on her arms. The male survivor, thought to be a teenager, suffered puncture wounds on his calf.

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 centre in Washington state.

The latest attack had residents and visitors to Cooke City on edge. Many were carrying bear spray, a pepper-based deterrent more commonly seen in Yellowstone's backcountry than on the streets of the national park satellite community.

About 600 grizzly bears and hundreds of less-aggressive black bears live in the Yellowstone area.

The 4-hectare Soda Butte Campground in Gallatin National Forest has 27 sites.

Two other campgrounds were also closed while the attacking bear or bears remained at large.

- AP

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