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Bear tears into campers’ tent in Tennessee park, injuring woman, 3-year-old girl

by Jun 15, 2022Local News, World News

A black bear apparently in search of food tore into a tent in which a family was sleeping at a campground in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, injuring a mother and her 3-year-old daughter before the father was able to scare the bear off.

The mother and daughter were not seriously injured, with both suffering “superficial lacerations to their heads,” according to a news release from the National Park Service. They did leave the campground to get medical attention.

Biologists tracked down and captured the bear, a 350-pound male. The bear was euthanized Monday because of concerns that it might again threaten humans.

The Park Service says the incident occurred at about 5:20 a.m. Sunday at the Elkmonth Campground. The family of five and their dog were sleeping in their tent when the bear ripped into the tent and got inside. The father needed several attempts to scare the bear off, officials say.

The campsite was closed early Sunday morning when rangers responded to the site. Traps were set for the bear at the campsite and it soon returned.

“The bear exhibited extreme food-conditioned behavior and lack of fear of humans, boldly entering the trap without wariness,” the news release says. The Park Service says the bear’s behavior “appeared to be inconsistent with predatory behavior, but rather that of a food-conditioned bear.” Bears can be attracted to campgrounds and picnic areas by the smell of food and garbage.

“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,” said Lisa McInnis, chief of resource management. “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 Service says human-bear conflicts peak in late May and June when natural foods, like berries, are not yet available.

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