Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rampage at Soda Butte

Recent Bear Attacks
by Robert A. Waters

It’s a fine line between humans encroaching on the territory of predatory animals and enjoying the wonders of nature. We love our state and national parks but sometimes danger lurks. Here are a few examples.

On July 28, at around 2:00 a.m., a bear attacked three campers at the Soda Butte Campground in southern Montana. Kevin Kammer, 48, was killed and two others were badly mauled. Kammer, who was in the area to fly-fish, had pitched a tent and was likely sleeping when the animal pounced.

The campground is near Yellowstone National Park.

After the rampage, Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesman Ron Aasheim addressed the media. “The campsites are being combed for evidence,” he said. “We’re not certain if it was one bear or more than one, and we haven’t determined if it was a grizzly or a black bear. We’ve extracted DNA samples from evidence found on this site. This will help us identify the bear or bears involved, once captured.”

It was later announced that a mother bear and two cubs had returned to the scene and were captured. If it can be proven that she was the killer, the mother bear will be euthanized and the cubs sent to zoos.

In yet another attack, TV personality Jack Hannah fought off a charging bear by using pepper spray. He was hiking with a group in Montana’s Glacier National Park when they encountered a mother bear and two cubs. One of the cubs rushed toward him, forcing Hannah to launch three bursts of spray at the bear. The final burst did the trick and the cub turned and ran off.

All of these victims had used precautions to minimize the risk of attack. The campers left no food which would have attracted bears. Hannah and the other hikers were on a trail talking loudly so the wildlife would be aware of their presence--experts say that this will generally keep bears away.

A month earlier, Erwin Frank Evert, 70, was attacked and killed in Shoshone National Park, again near Yellowstone. Evert was a botanist who took bear warnings seriously. In this case, authorities say a sign that warned of the presence of bears had been removed before Evert arrived. The animal that attacked Evert had been trapped and tranquilized by researchers a few hours earlier then released near the spot where it attacked the elderly man. The bear was tracked and killed by park rangers.

The natural wonders of earth can be exhilarating.

They can also be deadly.

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