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DNR: Slain Bear’s DNA Not A Match In Child’s Attack

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(credit: istock)

(credit: istock)

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DETROIT (WWJ) If the DNA doesn’t fit, the cops must acquit — in this case a bear suspected of attacking a young girl in Cadillac, Mich.

The Department of Natural Resources announced Monday the DNA of a bear killed Aug. 18 by DNR officers does not match that of a bear that had attacked 12-year-old Abby Wetherell.

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.

Tests showed that the bear that attacked Abby was a female. The bear that was killed was a male.

What’s next? “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,” officials said in a press release.

A full recovery is next for Wetherell, who returned home from the hospital with more than 100 stitches for gashes sustained when a bear chased her, caught her twice, and lashed her with its heavy paws. Wetherell eventually played dead until the bear left her alone.

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.

But remember: 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 that was tested was killed after reports came in at 11:30 p.m. Aug. 17 in Selma Township, Mich., that a man had shot a bear on his property because he perceived the bear to be a threat to his life. It was about two miles from where Wetherell had been attacked Aug. 15.

Conservation officers subsequently tracked the bear and shot the animal at approximately 2:45 a.m. Aug. 18. The bear was killed because it was wounded and aggressive, not because it was suspected of being involved in the attack on Wetherell, officials said.

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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