A bear was euthanized after it ripped into a family’s tent and attacked a mother and her three-year-old daughter during a frightening encounter on a camping trip in the Smoky Mountains, officials say.
The family was at Elkmont Campground when a 350-pound black bear tore into the tent, which contained the family of five and their dog, around 5:20 am on Sunday, June 12.
The bear proceeded to scratch a three-year-old girl and her mother. The father managed to scare away the bear, but only after multiple attempts.
The mother and daughter suffered superficial wounds to their heads. The family left a note informing park officials of the incident and departed the campground to seek medical attention.
The campground hosts notified park officials of the incident at approximately 8:50 am. Park Rangers proceeded to close down the area. They interviewed the father and other campers to collect information that could lead them to the bear — such as bear tracks.
Park officials believe that the bear was attracted to food smells and suspect it was lured to that particular campsite by the smell of dog food the family had with them.
The bear’s behavior was consistent with a food-conditioned bear. It displayed a lack of fear of humans and willingly stepped into a trap set by park staff.
After biologists were able to match and identify the bear, it was humanely euthanized on Monday, June 13.
“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, in this incident, the bear was likely attracted to food smells throughout the area, including dog food at the involved campsite,” Chief of Resource Management Lisa McInnis told ABC 13 in Asheville.
“It is very difficult to deter this learned behavior and, as in this case, the result can lead to an unacceptable risk to people.”