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Bear DNA does not match bear that attacked girl

A black bear that was shot and killed last week is not the same bear that attacked a 12-year-old girl.

A black bear that was shot and killed last week is not the same bear that attacked a 12-year-old girl.

The DNA of a wounded bear killed Aug. 18 by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources does not match the DNA of the bear that attacked 12-year-old Abby Wetherell near Cadillac, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced. The bear’s carcass was examined by the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Lansing, in cooperation with Michigan State University and the Michigan State Police. Tests were conducted for disease, and the bear’s DNA was extracted. The bear DNA was then checked against DNA from fur and saliva lifted from Abby’s clothing and from the scene of the attack. The tests showed that the bear that attacked Abby was a female. The bear that was killed was a male.

The DNR will extend trapping efforts in the area of the attack through the end of the week and will continue to monitor bear activity in that location. The DNR asks the public to report bear sightings in the area of the attack, which is in Wexford County’s Haring Township. Reports can be made to the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 800-292-7800, or the department’s Cadillac Operations Service Center at (231) 775-9727. The black bear is a protected species under Michigan law. The public is reminded not to shoot a bear unless the animal poses an immediate threat.  Bears are a natural part of the landscape within this area and their presence should not be seen as a threat.

The bear tested by the DNR was the result of a complaint received at about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 17 in Wexford County’s Selma Township. Michigan conservation officers arrived on the scene to find that a man had wounded the bear by gunshot on his property because he perceived the bear to be a threat to his life. Conservation officers subsequently tracked the bear and shot the animal at approximately 2:45 a.m. Aug. 18. The bear was not killed because it was suspected of being involved in the Aug. 15 attack on Abby. Once the animal was discovered, however, the bear was tested for a possible relationship to the attack because it was within about 2 miles of the attack location.

Michigan has an estimated black bear population of 8,000 to 10,000 bears with 90 percent of the population in the Upper Peninsula. The DNR reminds the public that black bears are generally fearful of humans and will usually leave if they become aware that people are present. Black bear attacks on humans are highly unusual. Many bear attacks occur because a sow is protecting her cubs. However, there is no evidence that cubs were present at the scene of the attack on Abby.

The DNR reminds those living in an area where bears may be present:

  • Travel in small groups and make noise to avoid surprising bears.
  • Stand your ground and then slowly back away if you encounter a bear. Do not turn away. Do not show fear and run. Do not play dead.
  • Make yourself look bigger and talk to the bear in a stern voice.
  • Fight back if actually attacked with anything at hand — a backpack, a stick, bare hands.
  • Carry pepper spray, which has been shown to be effective in fending off bear attacks.

For additional information on living with bears, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/bear.

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