Official: Grizzly Bear Offspring May Not Be Killed but Mother Bear in Fatal Attack to Be Put Down

Official says young bears could be sent to a zoo but their mother will die.

July 29, 2010, 8:18 AM

July 30, 2010 — -- The mother grizzly bear that mauled three people in Montana this week will be put to death, but an official involved in the decision-making process says her three young offspring may not need to be euthanized.

The cubs could spend the rest of their lives in a zoo, Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, said this morning on "Good Morning America."

Some officials have expressed fears that the cubs would have to be put down because they learned predatory behavior from watching their mother. A final decision remains to be made.

Servheen, who is responsible for coordinating all research and management on grizzly bears in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington State, said the mother bear had to be killed because her behavior revealed predation.

Bears display natural aggression when they're protecting their young or a food source, or when they're surprised. The aggression that's displayed is employed as a means of neutralizing the situation so they can get away, he said.

The bear from the Wednesday attack that left one man dead and two others injured had developed a taste for predation upon humans, meaning the bear was expected to enter a campground again "with the intent of killing and eating a person."

That's how authorities were able to trap this grizzly bear, he said.

They used parts of the deceased camper's tent and sleeping bag as bait. The bear "went directly to that trap and went into it," Servheen said.

An autopsy will be performed to determine if there was any "organic problem" that led to the bear's behavior, he added.

Two of the mother bear's young offspring have been trapped. A third is expected to be trapped soon.

"We would never release these bears into the wild again, but they can be released in a zoo," Servheen said.

Two 911 calls were made early Wednesday to alert authorities to the bear attack at the Soda Butte Campground in Montana, located five miles from Yellowstone National Park.

Three people were mauled, and one of them -- Kevin R. Kammer, 48, of Grand Rapids, Mich. -- was killed. He was attacked in his tent while he slept.

Victims Recount Horror

Ronald Singer, 21, of Alamosa, Colo., sustained bite injuries. He was the first victim, and woke up to the bear biting his leg.

"About 2 o'clock in the morning I felt the entire tent just fly 2 or 3 feet. And noticed something was attached to my leg," he told "Good Morning America" Thursday.

Singer said he hit the bear a few times.

"It didn't make a noise until it backed up and then it growled and took off through the bushes," he added. "I feel very lucky that I am here, that the wounds weren't more. Because I'm the least affected by it, the other lady, she is going to have a horrible time with that arm now."

That woman was the third victim, Deb Freele.

In an interview from a Wyoming hospital, Freele told "Good Morning America" that she woke up and sensed that something was very wrong.

When she opened her eyes, she saw a bear inside her tent. It attacked her immediately.

"I woke up and the bear bit down on me," the 58-year-old from London, Ontario, said. "I haven't even moved. I screamed and he bit down harder. He continued to bite and shake and I could hear my bones breaking."

Quick thinking saved her life.

"You've got to play dead, or you're dead," she told "GMA." "So I did. And he let go."

Wildlife officials are taking saliva samples from the victims' bite wounds, hair evidence from tents and the victims' clothes, in order to make sure they have trapped the bear responsible for the attack.

They expect to know later today whether the DNA is a match.

There are 125 grizzly bears and 500 black bears in the Yellowstone area, according to official estimates.

Click here to return to the "Good Morning America" website.

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