Bear euthanized after ripping into tent, injuring mother and daughter in Tennessee

The 3-year-old and her mother both sustained superficial wounds on their heads.

June 14, 2022, 2:23 PM

A Great Smoky Mountains bear has been euthanized after officials said it attacked a mother and her daughter while they were camping in the national park on Sunday.

A family of five was sleeping in their tent at the Elkmont Campground when the bear ripped into it at approximately 5:20 a.m.

The park said after an investigation and on site monitoring, wildlife biologists successfully captured the bear.

The black bear, was euthanized due to risk to human safety on Monday, the park said.

PHOTO: A baby bear climbs a tree off of a trail at the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gaitlinburg, Tenn., June 3, 2019.
A baby bear climbs a tree off of a trail at the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gaitlinburg, Tenn., June 3, 2019.
Asheville Citizen-Times via USA Today Network, FILE

“The bear weighed approximately 350 pounds, which is not standard for this time of year, suggesting the bear had previous and likely consistent access to non-natural food sources,” Lisa McInnis, chief of resource management, said in the park’s statement. “In this incident, the bear was likely attracted to food smells throughout the area, including dog food at the involved campsite. It is very difficult to deter this learned behavior and, as in this case, the result can lead to an unacceptable risk to people.”

The park reports the family was inside the tent, with their dog, sleeping when the bear ripped through and entered the tent. Once inside, the bear scratched a three-year-old girl and her mother.

After several attempts, the father was able to scare the bear from the tent and campsite. The family left a note at the campground’s office before leaving the site to seek medical attention.

Both the three-year-old and her mother sustained superficial lacerations to their heads.

Once alerted to the incident at approximately 8:50 a.m., park staff monitored the site for bear activity and set traps in the area.

PHOTO: A banner welcomes family members to the picnic at Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tenn., June 15, 2019.
A banner welcomes family members to the picnic at Elkmont Campground in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Tenn., June 15, 2019.
Knoxville News Sentinel via USA Today Network, FILE

Park rangers closed the immediate area, interviewed the father and other campers and collected site information such as bear tracks and other identifying markers.

Reportedly, a male bear who matched the father’s description entered the area of the incident and exhibited “extreme food-conditioned behavior and lack of fear of humans, boldly entering the trap without weariness.”

Park officials said the bear’s behavior did not appear consistent with predatory behavior, but rather that of a food conditioned bear.

This is the second bear from the park to be euthanized because of its condition due to being fed human food this month.

According to park officials, human-bear conflicts peak in late May and June when natural foods such as berries are not yet available. As a result, bears are attracted to the smell of food in the park’s developed areas, including campgrounds and picnic areas.

The park encourages campers to take necessary precautions to properly store food while in bear country.

The park stated its staff would continue to track reports of bear activity in campgrounds and other more populated areas to notify the public regarding any site warnings or closures.

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