GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — A bear hungry for food tore open a tent over the weekend at Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, causing superficial wounds to a woman and a 3-year-old child.
The June 12 incident has led authorities to caution visitors against camping in tents and other soft-sided shelters at the campground for the time being.
“A three-year old girl and her mother received superficial scratches to their heads. The father was able to eventually scare the bear from the site and wildlife biologists are monitoring the area,” the National Park Service said in a warning posted on the campground’s reservations website.
The Elkmont Campground remains open, but K and L loop roads are temporarily closed for safety reasons, the park service said in the bear warning. Campsite K1-4, K6, K7 & K11 and also sites L1-7 are also closed.
“Camping in bear country is inherently risky. It is critical that all campers follow food storage regulations and bear safety guidelines,” the park service said in the online warning.
The bear was captured by wildlife biologists and euthanized on Monday, June 13 according to the National Park Service. This is the second bear to die in less than a month because of being fed human food, experts said.
“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.”
Wildlife experts emphatically warn people against feeding bears. Once fed, the bears continue coming back for more and will become aggressive about it — putting people’s lives at risk and causing the bear to be euthanized.
Elkmont Campground is located 8 miles from Gatlinburg at an elevation of 2,150 feet above sea level. it is the largest and busiest campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated following the capture of the bear.