Bear euthanized after 3-year-old girl, mom injured in tent at Tennessee campground

Elkmont Campground officials advise using storing food and even water properly to help keep bears away. (Source: WVLT)
Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 10:07 AM PDT|Updated: Jun. 14, 2022 at 10:09 AM PDT
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SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. (WVLT/Gray News) – A bear that ripped into a tent and injured a mother and daughter at a campground in Tennessee has been euthanized, officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced in a news release.

On Sunday, the bear ripped into a tent at Elkmont Campground in search of food, according to officials. As a result, a 3-year-old girl and her mother suffered “superficial scratches to their heads.”

Officials said the girl’s father was eventually able to scare the bear from the campsite.

Wildlife biologists with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park tracked, captured and euthanized the bear after the incident. The animal’s behavior was consistent with being food-conditioned, as the animal walked into the trap laid by the biologists without fear.

“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.”

Human-bear conflicts peak in late May and June when berries and other natural foods are not available, so bears are drawn to garbage and food smells in the area, such as the campgrounds and picnic areas.

Although bear attacks are rare, they can occur. Park officials advised that people attacked by a black bear should fight back with the nearest object as the bear will likely view the person as prey.

Park officials reminded campers and visitors to store any food or garbage properly and to take other precautions during this time.

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