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350-pound black bear euthanized after attacking 3-year-old girl and her mother

Posted at 11:30 AM, Jun 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-14 13:30:17-04

A 350-pound black bear was euthanized after attacking a family of campers at Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee early Sunday morning, officials said.

The family of five, including two parents, a 3-year-old girl and their dog, were spending the night at Elkmont Campground when the bear tore into their tent around 5:20 a.m. local time, according to the National Park Service.

The bear attacked the girl and her mother after entering their tent, and both sustained what park officials described as "superficial lacerations to their heads" as a result of the encounter. The child's father managed to frighten the bear and force it to leave the area, after which the family reported the incident to the campground and left the site to get medical attention.

Officials interviewed the father as well as other campers to collect identifying information about the bear. Park rangers and wildlife biologists closed the surrounding area and set traps, which ultimately lured a bear that matched the campers' descriptions to the site. The bear was captured and "humanely euthanized" on Monday after officials determined it posed risks to human safety, the National Park Service said.

The agency noted the bear's behavior as "food-conditioned" — a term for animals that have pursued and obtained non-natural foods, damaged property or displayed aggressive behavior for reasons other than self-defense — rather than explicitly predatory. Food-conditioned bears are removed from the wild because of human safety concerns.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a protected area along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, is one of the largest designated regions where black bears exist in the U.S. Seeing one during a visit to the national park is not uncommon, as biologists estimate roughly 1,500 black bears live in the Smokies, equating to a population density of about two bears per square mile. Black bear attacks on humans are rare, and only a handful have been reported in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Very few of them were fatal.