Update: Campers Injured By Bear(s) in AZ

Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bear Hunting Magazine

Rabies testing of three black bears removed from the vicinity of the recent human attacks at Ponderosa Campground and Thompson Draw II has been reported as negative. The rabies tests were carried out by the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department is now awaiting results from a DNA analysis being conducted by the nationally-recognized Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory. The DNA analysis will provide information that could help Game and Fish officers link the attacks to one or more bears and help tie the bears that were removed to the three incidents.

Wildlife officers lethally removed two black bears from the vicinity around Ponderosa Campground in response to a bear attack that occurred there earlier this week. The first bear was a young adult male weighing around 160 pounds. The other bear was a very large dry sow female that weighed approximately 300 pounds. Dogs tracked the bears from a scent trail near the campground. Another bear was removed earlier (Friday) when it was trailed by hounds, from close to the site of the second attack near Tonto Village to the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery.

The bears were lethally removed because of the aggressive, predatory behavior the bear(s) exhibited when attacking the three different victims in the past month. The only means of testing for rabies is by having the animal's carcass.

Game and Fish has conducted forensic investigations on all three victims' personal belongings and camping equipment to recover DNA samples. Those samples, as well as some tissue from the bears that were removed, will be flown to the Wyoming Game and Fish Forensic and Fish Health Laboratory on Tuesday for analysis.

Original News Flash:
A Tempe, Arizona man was injured over the weekend when a bear attacked him in his tent at Ponderosa Campground in the Tonto National Forest. The man suffered lacerations and bites to his head and arm and possibly to his legs. He was taken by helicopter to Phoenix for medical treatment.

The bear had entered the man's tent where he. his fiance' and a one-year-old child were in. The fiance' and child were able to escape unharmed and get help from other campers in the area.

Reports indicate that another camper at a nearby campsite shot at the bear several times with a handgun at close range after the attack. The bear left the area, and it is unknown at this time if or how many times the bear was hit.

U.S. Forest Service personnel evacuated the campground and wildlife officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services are currently searching for the bear.

"Extensive efforts are being made to locate and remove the animal for the public's safety, which is our top priority," said Rod Lucas, regional supervisor for Game and Fish. If the bear is captured, it will be lethally removed because of the aggressive, predatory behavior the bear exhibited and the need for disease testing.

This is the third bear incident in the same general area in the past month, the second at Ponderosa Campground. Less than a month ago, a bear entered a tent at Ponderosa Campground and clawed a woman. Her injuries were non-life-threatening. Despite tracking and trapping efforts that bear was never trapped. The U.S. Forest Service temporarily closed Ponderosa Campground after that incident and reopened it June 12.

At this point there is no way of telling if the bear in this morning's attack was involved in either of the other incidents. The Forest Service has indicated it is temporarily closing Ponderosa Campground along with two other campgrounds several miles away as a public safety precaution.

With the state's drought and scarce wildlife food resources, more and more wildlife are moving into areas that are on the fringe of wildlands, looking for food. Bears are particularly attracted to areas where humans are because of the often easy access to garbage, food and gardens.

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