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3rd victim of Montana bear mauling identified

Authorities identified the third victim of a bear attack near Yellowstone National Park as a 21-year-old  from Colorado. A grizzly and two cubs were captured earlier.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Authorities identified the third victim of a bear attack in a campground near Yellowstone National Park as a 21-year-old man from Colorado.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials said Ronald Singer, of Alamosa, Colo., was bitten in the attacks early Wednesday and treated a hospital in Cody, Wyo.

Hospital officials said Thursday that Singer was treated and released.

Wildlife officials captured a grizzly bear and two cubs they believe dragged 48-year-old Kevin Kammer of Grand Rapids from his tent and killed him. Another camper, Deb Freele of London, Ontario, was scheduled for surgery Friday for bite wounds on her arm.

Officials were searching for a third cub and awaiting the results of DNA tests to confirm the bears were responsible for the attack.

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.

Heavy groans
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.

'We want to be ready'
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.

Unusual behavior
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.