Authorities Capture Bear That Killed One Man, Injured 2 Others in Montana Attack

Investigators turn to DNA testing to link captured bear to scene of attack.

July 29, 2010, 4:59 PM

July 29, 2010— -- A horrifying grizzly bear attack at a campsite near Yellowstone National Park has prompted authorities to launch a CSI-style investigation, with officials turning to DNA testing to identify the female bear that killed one man and injured two other campers.

Montana wildlife officials have trapped a female grizzly bear and two cubs near the campsite where the attack occurred. They lured the bears into metal traps by baiting them with the dead victim's tent.

Watch "World News" tonight on ABC for more on the bear attack.

Authorities believe the sow is the same bear that attacked the campers, though they will wait for the results of genetic testing before euthanizing it.

Officials say they have not yet decided whether to put down the cubs, and they're still hunting for a third cub. They're not likely to be released because they could have learned predatory behavior during the attack.

The attack happened around 2 a.m. Wednesday at the Soda Butte Campground just north of the Montana-Wyoming border outside of Yellowstone Park. Several groups of campers had pitched tents and were asleep when a sow, estimated to weigh from 300 to 400 pounds, began entering tents and attacking humans.

"I felt the entire tent just fly two or three feet and noticed something was attached to my leg," said Ronald Singer, a 21-year-old who was bitten on the leg. "I was asleep, so I was all groggy and just punched it a couple of times, and it didn't make a noise until it backed up. Then it growled and took off through the bushes."

The female, estimated to weigh from 300 to 400 pounds, then went on to attack people in other tents.

Kevin Kammer, 48, from Grand Rapids, Mich., was killed and dragged from his tent.

Canadian Deb Freele barely escaped alive. The bear crushed her arm in its jaws before Freele played dead and the sow stopped its attack.

The bear "continued to bite and shake, and I could hear my bones breaking," Freele told ABC's "Good Morning America." "I felt like prey. ... I don't think it's a normal bear."

The attack is vexing to wildlife officials because it appears that the campers all had taken all the necessary precautions, locking away food in metal bear boxes away from the sleeping area.

"We did everything we were supposed to," said Singer, explaining the attack as a case of "wrong time, wrong place."

"She basically targeted the three people and went after them," said Capt. Sam Sheppard, of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, who is investigating the attack. "It wasn't like an archery hunter who gets between a sow and her cubs and she responds to protect them."

With the suspected mother and two cubs now captured, authorities said they'll perform DNA tests to try to link them to the scene of the attack.

Just like in human crimes, authorities typically gather evidence after a bear attack, including any clothing the victim was wearing.

"There'll be puncture holes where it bit them and [the bear] leaves saliva behind," said Dr. Jeff Rodzen, senior wildlife forensic specialist with the California Department of Fish and Game, who has performed DNA tests on the state's black bear population.

"Once an animal is trapped, you can compare a DNA profile from saliva to the animal," to make a match, he said. "Conversely, they can collect swabs from the claws and teeth to see if it matches human blood."

The DNA tests are almost identical to human DNA tests, employing the same techniques and equipment. When a link is made, it's so accurate that there's less than a 1 in a billion chance of an error.

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

ABC News' Ryan Owens and Julia Bain, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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