A three-year-old girl and her mother were scratched early Sunday morning by a black bear that clawed through their tent while they were camping at Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
A press release issued by the National Park Service (NPS) stated that the behavior of the bear, which was later euthanized, was not predatory, but was consistent with that of a food-conditioned bear.
“The bear weighed about 350 pounds, which is not standard for this time of year, suggesting that the bear had earlier and likely consistent access to unnatural food sources,” said Lisa McInnis, chief of resource management.
She said the bear was likely attracted to food odors in the area that led to the incident.
Bear attacks are rare, according to the agency, although there are ways one can be prepared for them.
“If you are attacked by a black bear, don’t play dead,” the NPS urged. “Try to escape to a safe place like a car or building. If escape isn’t possible, try to fight back with every available item. Concentrate your kicks and punches on the bear’s face and muzzle.”
NPS officials said a family of five was asleep when the bear clawed through the tent. After several attempts, the father managed to chase the bear away from the area.
The family left a note for officials at the campground office before seeking medical attention.
“Both mother and daughter suffered superficial cuts to their heads,” the press release said.
After speaking with the family’s father, park officials learned how to identify the bear and they eventually watched the area for bear activity and set traps until a male bear matching the description entered the campground.
“The bear displayed extreme food-conditioned behavior and lack of fear of humans, and boldly stepped into the trap without attention,” the release said.
The bear was “humanely euthanized” on Monday.
Officials urged park guests to properly store their food while in bear country, noting that conflict between bears and humans peaks in late May and June when natural food is unavailable.
news week contacted the National Park Service for more comment.
There have been other instances of physical interactions between humans and bears.
A woman was collecting her mail when a black bear attacked her. She was taken to hospital and treated for arm and back injuries.
A couple fought a bear who broke into their house with a kitchen knife. The man shot and killed the bear while he was in the house.
Another bear lunged at a woman and bit her foot while walking her dog. She yelled at the bear and chased him away.