They got the wrong bear.
DNA from a black bear killed by Michigan Department of Natural Resources officers more than a week ago did not match genetic material left by a bear that attacked 12-year-old Abigail Wetherall as she jogged along a wooded path in Haring Township earlier this month, officials said. State wildlife officials will continue trying to trap and kill the bear responsible for the attack, which Abigail survived by playing dead -- something she learned from watching TV.
“As time passes, the chances of trapping” the bear that attacked Wetherell “diminish,” DNR spokeswoman Katie Keen told the Detroit Free Press. “We’re not going to continue trapping forever. We’ve discussed that with Abby’s family and they are comfortable with what we decide.”
The girl suffered deep cuts and puncture wounds, but later appeared on Fox News Channel to recount her ordeal, and said she would continue jogging -- just not alone in the woods.
State biologists tested DNA from a bear killed in nearby Selma Township, only a few miles from where Wetherell was attacked. That bear had been shot and wounded by a man who “felt his life was threatened,” Keen said. Black bears are a protected species in Michigan.
News that the wrong bear was shot won't come as a surprise to the girl's grandfather, who said last week the bear that attacked Abigail was much smaller than the 500-pound bruin killed by state officials.
The seventh-grader was jogging around 9 p.m. when she noticed the bear out of the corner of her eye on an intersecting two-track. She picked up speed, and the bear pursued and caught her.
"He mauled her pretty bad," Wetherell said. "She fought and got away. He continued after her and knocked her down again. According to Abby, at this point she just laid there and played dead."
A neighbor heard the girl's cries and yelled for Abby's dad, Chris Wetherell, who was in the area. Together, they chased the bear into the woods.
Abby was taken by helicopter to Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, where she underwent more than two hours of surgery to treat deep scratches on her leg.
Michigan's black bear population is estimated at 8,000 to 10,000, but about 90 percent are in the Upper Peninsula, the DNR said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.