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Bear that mauled teen in 2013 killed in Wexford County


Black bear attacks on humans are highly unusual, according to the Michigan DNR, but can occur if a sow is protecting her cubs.

Black bear attacks on humans are highly unusual, according to the Michigan DNR, but can occur if a sow is protecting her cubs.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday, May 11,  that a black bear recently shot and killed in Haring Township, north of Cadillac in Wexford County, is the same bear that mauled a teenage girl, Abby Wetherell, in that same township in 2013.

The DNR confirms a 9-year-old female black bear was killed April 30 by an individual, who wishes to remain anonymous, acting in self-defense. The individual let out a dog, which then immediately ran after what appeared to be a bear cub. The dog was stopped at the end of the tree line barking when the owner saw a bear appear and attack the dog. The individual went to assist the dog and the bear ran off. As the owner attempted to render aid to the injured dog, the bear retuned to the scene and approached the resident, who then shot the bear. The situation was reported to the DNR and investigated. It was determined to be a justifiable killing of the bear.

The bear carcass was sent to the DNR Wildlife Disease Laboratory in Lansing for pathology review. DNA samples were sent to Michigan State University for genetic testing. MSU’s Jeannette Kanefsky of the Molecular Ecology Laboratory did the genotyping.

“The results of the genetic testing are consistent between the sample from the 2016 shot black bear and the evidence at the 2013 black bear mauling scene,” said Kanefsky. “The genotypes obtained from the samples are a match.”

The Wetherells were informed late Tuesday of the findings.

Through a process called “cementum annuli analysis,” DNR wildlife biologists examined the bear’s teeth to assess her age and number of litters. They determined this bear had three litters throughout her lifetime, including in 2013 when the mauling took place. It remains uncertain whether cubs were in the vicinity when the attack on Abby occurred.

After the attack on Abby, the DNR put extensive effort into setting traps and responding to bear activity in the area.

“DNR staff is relieved to have this matter resolved for both the Wetherells and the community,” said Keith Kintigh, field operations manager for the DNR’s Northern Lower Region. “Over the last three years, we have been highly responsive to multiple bear issues in the hopes of catching this animal.”

Michigan has an estimated black bear population of approximately 11,000 bears, with roughly 80 percent of the population in the Upper Peninsula. There is an established bear population in the area of Wexford County. The DNR reminds the public that black bears generally are fearful of humans and usually will leave if they become aware that people are present. Bear attacks on human beings are highly unusual and in most cases occur because a sow is protecting her cubs.

Here are some important facts to remember when in an area where bears may be present:

• To avoid surprising bears, travel in small groups and make noise.

• If you encounter a bear, stand your ground and then slowly back away. 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.

• If actually attacked, fight back with a backpack, stick or bare hands.

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

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Owl Relationships


By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

I wonder about the important relationships.

Sunday morning I stopped at Ody Brook’s road entrance where I saw a dead bird. At first I thought it was a Ruffed Grouse but quickly realized it was a gray phase Eastern Screech Owl. I drove to church.

During silent prayers I prayed for Greg and Cindi in regards to what is appearing to be a terminal cancer for Cindi. Then I prayed for the owl that lost its life and also for its family.

I received a call in January from a man that found a Great Horned Owl dead in the snow.  Upon retrieving the owl, he realized it died a strange death. The owl was flying close to the ground and flew into a grape vine. The vine branched into a V. The owl’s neck got caught and wedged in the V. The owl was hanging limply by the neck. The skin was ripped and the neck broken. I hoped the owl died instantly instead of hanging helplessly wedged by the neck.

Now that it is dead, I wonder about its mate and plans that were made. It is breeding season. Owl pairs have probably found some advantages and some disadvantages to the two plus feet of snow received. The snow surely affected hunting and daily routines. Males are catching prey to present to females. Nest selection and refurbishing has been underway. Territory boundaries have been claimed and posted with vigilant calls and patrols. We heard a Great Horned Owl begin hooting here this week.

What now? Was it the male or female that died? What emotional strain would envelop the remaining owl? January is a hard month without the loss of a mate.

Males offer food and females expect it. Females may have begun egg laying and should be sitting tight to nests waiting for mates to bring nourishment. The forest must sound empty without the nightly hoots of her mate.

Many think that only people experience emotional loss and associated loss of contributory sustenance when a spouse dies. In nature niches, many species help sustain mates, especially during the breeding season. When a mate suddenly disappears without a trace, the emotional strain must be great. No one notifies the family member of what happened. Emotional strain is a combination of chemical and nervous stimulation. Only in a few social species do others comfort and assist the grieving.

Personal survival demands the owl continue valiantly. For the owl, a lone female left to survive will probably continue but her eggs may not hatch. Exposure while she hunts might be too great and the embryos will likely never develop.

Life is hard with emotional traumas. When a bird’s nest is raided, an ant’s food taken, or a person’s body withers from disease, these organisms experience emotion. How we choose to interpret nervous and chemical changes and then define emotion is our choice.

Emotion may be quantified and even dismissed by some scientific standards for some organisms. Perceptive people will recognize what I call many realms of reality. Ants, owls, and people share experiences of living and emotion. We are all of the same DNA.  Our perceptions and emotions are different in degree with links dating back to the beginnings of life.

I wonder about the important relationships.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, Michigan 49319-8433.

 

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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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