Bear Mauling Victim: Playing Dead Saved My Life

Deb Freele was sound asleep in her tent in Yellowstone National Park before waking up suddenly in the early morning hours Wednesday. A split second later, a bear was mauling her.

"Next thing I know, this bear is chewing on my arm. I screamed. He bit harder. I screamed harder," she told "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill Thursday from a Cody, Wyoming hospital.

Freele was one of three victims of bear attacks Wednesday. One person was killed and another wounded.

Armed officials inspected the scene at the Soda Butte Campgrounds trying to determine if the same animal was responsible for all three maulings, reports CBS News correspondent Priya David-Clemens.

Andrea Jones, of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, told reporters, "These were three individual campers at three individual camp sites."

Authorities have set out large, steel bear traps in an effort to capture the animal. The man who died was reportedly dragged from his tent and found near the edge of the campgrounds, reports David-Clemens.

In Freele's case, she said she sustained multiple bite wounds before determining that "screaming was not working."

"I don't know if you call it instinct, but something inside me just said … 'I want to live.' And I just told myself, 'Play dead.' … As soon as I went limp, I [could] feel his jaws get loose and then he let me go and he went away."

Freele was camping with her husband, but he didn't hear the attack take place.

"He was sleeping in his tent. He makes a lot of noise when he sleeps, so we don't sleep in the same tent," Freele said.

The campground has a history of bear attacks. Two years ago Steven Bartley was mauled by a grizzly bear. The bear crushed several bones in his hand as he struggled to fight off the animal.

"What I got attacked by was a 350-pound female bear at 3 a.m., and I can't think of anything more scary in my life. … I wouldn't sleep in a tent in bear country for anything," Bartley said.

Freele, who has years of camping experience, said she didn't know how the attack would affect future camping outings. But she chalked it up to an " absolutely freaky thing."

Deadly bear attacks are rare. In the last 110 years, just 108 have been killed by either black bears or grizzly bears in North America. On average 35 people are injured by bears each year in the U.S.

Wildlife experts are collecting bear hair, saliva and droppings while measuring the bite wounds of the victims to determine the type and number of bears involved, David-Clemens reports. This is the height of camping season and Soda Butte Campgrounds remains closed.
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