Wildlife officers from the Arizona Game and Fish Department and personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services lethally removed two black bears Sunday evening from the vicinity around Ponderosa Campground in response to a bear attack that occurred there earlier that morning.

The first bear was a young adult male weighing around 160 pounds. The other bear was a very large female that weighed approximately 300 pounds and was dry, meaning that she did not appear to have produced any cubs this year. 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.

It was imperative that the bears be lethally removed because of the aggressive, predatory behavior a bear or bears exhibited when it attacked 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.

“Until we receive the results of the DNA analysis, we will not know whether these three recent attacks can be attributed to one bear or three different bears. DNA examination is critical in this case for helping prove or disprove a link between the attacks,” said Rod Lucas, regional supervisor for Game and Fish.

This was the third bear incident in the same general area in the past month, the second at Ponderosa Campground.

Game and Fish set bear culvert traps following the first incident on May 31, but had yet to catch a bear. A trap was set in the Ponderosa Campground at the time of the latest attack.

“By setting culvert traps in the area where the attacks have occurred, we are more likely to catch the problem bear and not other bears that are not creating public safety issues,” said Lucas. “Our wildlife officers chose their profession because of their love for wildlife and the outdoors. They do not enjoy destroying animals, but the burden of public safety and active management of wildlife dictates an aggressive approach, and efforts will continue until the offending animal(s) is found or it is no longer feasible to continue operations.”

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 campground areas where they often find easy access to garbage and food sources.

Bear attacks on humans are rare despite Arizona’s robust population of 2,500 to 3,000 bears. Sunday’s attack is only the 10th documented bear attack in Arizona since 1990, but the third this year.

Logo courtesy of the Arizona Game and Fish Department

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