DNA tests provide few answers in bear attacks

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Results from DNA tests on two of the three black bears recently removed from the Tonto National Forest have confirmed that they were not involved in the June 24 attack on a man at the Ponderosa Campground.

Testing of bear hair samples did reveal that the bear involved in last weekend’s attack was a male.

Officials said a lack of DNA material prevented them from determining if any of the bears were involved in similar attacks on May 31 and June 21.

“We meticulously attempted to remove any available DNA samples from the first two victims’ personal belongings and submitted quite a few hairs. Unfortunately, the samples were hair that was shed, not plucked or pulled, which means there was no root and no DNA material,” said Dr. Anne Justice-Allen, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s wildlife veterinarian.

Since the end of last month, two campers have been attacked by bears while staying at the Ponderosa Campground, which is just 10 miles east of Payson.

Another individual was attacked by a bear in Tonto Village, which is about one mile north of the Ponderosa Campground.

Wildlife officers from Arizona Game and Fish and personnel from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services have lethally removed three bears from the area in the past week.

“We will continue intensive surveillance and trapping efforts until the offending animal(s) is found or it is no longer feasible to continue operations,” said Rod Lucas, regional supervisor for Arizona Game and Fish.