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Bear eludes traps, game official sees little hope of capture

By Joe Beck

A black bear that attacked a Staunton man almost two weeks ago in the George Washington National Forest in Hardy County, West Virginia is still at large and likely to remain that way for the rest of her life, the state's black bear project leader said Tuesday.

Colin Carpenter said the bear has no features that would allow anyone to distinguish it from other bears in the wild. The state Division of Natural Resources had set traps to catch the bear, but removed them about a week ago, Carpenter said.

The DNR was prepared to put down the bear, a female with two cubs, if she had been captured, Carpenter said.

Carpenter acknowledged an outcry from people protesting the effort to capture the bear and euthanize it.

"We got a lot of comments from all over the country, mostly people from Virginia," Carpenter said. "There were a lot of people who didn't want to see the bear killed. That's fine. Anybody can say whatever they want."

Carpenter said game managers would have been able to identify the bear if it had been captured within a few days of the attack.

"If we had caught a lactating female at the site within a few days of the attack, it would have been the right bear," Carpenter said.

The bear attacked Steven Krichbaum, an Ohio University wildlife researcher, on Aug. 21. Krichbaum was hospitalized with serious wounds after he tried to drive to Winchester Medical Center on his own, but had to pull over after he weakened from loss of blood. Krichbaum credited his dog, Henry, with diverting the bear before it could inflict further injury.

Carpenter said some bear hair was taken from Krichbaum's clothing and sent to a laboratory in the hopes of obtaining a DNA analysis that could be matched up to the bear. But Carpenter said he was unsure if a useful DNA sample could be obtained, and the matter is moot as long as the bear remains at large.

Krichbaum said in an email last week that he continues to recover. Virginia Wildlife, a nonprofit organization that advocates for preservation of national forests, has added a page to its website to collect funds to help pay for Henry's recovery from wounds he suffered from the bear. Krichbaum is the organization's former conservation director.

Those wishing to contribute can visit the site at http://tiny.cc/rqzklx.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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