Grizzly Attack Survivor Speaks of Her Experience

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Deb Freele was camping at Soda Butte Campground near Cooke City, Montana, 5 miles away from Yellowstone. Freele was doing what she loved most, camping and enjoying the outdoors. The last time she had been to Yellowstone she was just learning how to flyfish, 3 kids and a couple decades later she was back out there, more experienced with her angling skills.

July 28, 2010 was a normal day. That night she went to her own tent about 10 to 10:30, and her husband was in his own tent. Deb was closer to the car. There were about 4 or 5 other campers in the vicinity, but it was a pretty remote area. Deb and her husband were on their second to last night of their 13 night stay.

At around 2 in the morning Deb was awoken by a feeling. She felt something was very very wrong. As she was becoming aware, a bear bit down on her arm. The bear and her bear spray were at her back, and the tent was gone by this point. Deb tried to think of what she could do, play dead, scream for help. She did both, screaming for help seemed to make the bear bite harder. The bear had grabbed on to Deb's arm. It was pitch black, Deb couldn't see anything, just felt the bear clamped on her arm. Then she felt a mouth on her leg as well, in awe at the speed the bear had gone from her arm to her leg. Then it hit her, there wasn't just one bear. When Deb went limp to play dead she was just thinking about how to get to her bear spray or how to end it all quickly. Then she heard the occupants of the next camp site, they ran to their cars, and then she heard the click click of their doors being locked. Deb thinks around this time the click click sound must've made the bears move on, because she was dropped. She continued to lay still for awhile, to not draw the bears back to her, 20-30 seconds passed she rolled over, grabbed her bear spray. She armed the bear spray and started yelling for help- 20 minutes may have passed before she got help.

She was being transported out of Cooke City to a hospital when the report came that a body had been found. Later Deb would find out a camper, Kevin Kammer, at a different site had been killed and partially eaten by the mother grizzly and her cubs. Another camper, Ronald Singer, had also been attacked like Deb. Deb spent four days in the hospital, and then another year working on strengthening her arm, after doing several weeks of physical therapy working on getting her hand and arm movement back.

Thinking back to when the mother bear was biting her arm and the other bear cub was biting her leg, she thinks the mother was teaching the cubs how to get meat. Deb was okay with the mother sow getting euthanized. If Deb had come upon the bear and cubs on a trail and they had attacked that would've been one thing, but the bear had brought her cubs to a campground and attacked sleeping campers. Deb says there was no garbage. The cubs were not euthanized but sent to a zoo to live.

Deb would like to go to Yellowstone again one day. She has been camping in her home state of Michigan, black bear country. She says black bears act pretty normally though, where they are timid and run off from people. From


cowgal's picture

Interesting interview

I found the interview very interesting, but several things stood out as very odd. First as arrowflipper stated, that the bear was euthanized. It should have simply been killed. Secondly, I was surprised that people had actually protested the killing of the bear. Come on - do we want people killing machines in our mountains?

Lastly, where was her husband? Supposedly he was in the tent next to her - but did not come to her cries for help? She lay there 20-30 minutes before anyone came to help. And shame on the people that got in the car and drove away, while she was being attacked. 

arrowflipper's picture

spot on

Cowgirl is spot on with her observations..... where in the world was her husband?  Why would other campers just jump in the car and lock the doors?  (as if "locking" the door would keep the bears out)  No honking of horns.  No making noise?  No husband?  Hello people...... something doesn't seem right with this picture.  I wonder if she's still married today?

cowgal's picture

I agree very odd and doesn't

I agree very odd and doesn't quite add up. I know if my husband was being attacked I would risk my own life to try and help him (and he would for me too). 

arrowflipper's picture

interesting use of words

Deb was a very lucky woman.  A lot more lucky than Kevin.  What I found interesting was the use of words.  Kevin was killed and partially eaten, while the sow was "euthanized".  Is "euthanized" a less offensive word than just saying the the sow was shot or killed?  I don't know that I've seen it referred to that way before.  Maybe it's easier for environmental people to handle that way.