Black Bears have attacked five people in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the most recent victim was killed in September
Less than two weeks ago, hikers were making their way to the North Carolina part of the Hazel Creek Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was a beautiful adventure, and hikers couldn’t even imagine the horror that was about to set off.
A bear was scavenging the remains of a human.
Bear scavenges human remains at Great Smoky National Park
Hikers first thought they were walking next to an abandoned campsite. They came closer and noticed human remains scattered alongside a tent. There was a sleeping bag, too. And then they noticed the big black bear.
Horror. Panic. Hikers did their best to find an area with good cell reception and call park rangers. This happened shortly after 7 pm on Friday, September 11.
Staffers arrived at campsite number 82 and confirmed the story. They spotted the remains of a human male. The bear was still there.
Police officers identified the man as Patrick Madura, 43, of Elgin Illinois. The victim had a multi-night backcountry reservation for himself. He arrived on September 8. Park rangers couldn’t tell whether the bear killed the man or if he had died before the bear found him. An autopsy was set to take place on September 15.
“Staff arrived at campsite 82 shortly after midnight and confirmed the report of a deceased adult human male,” park officials said.
Black bears are native to the region. This particular bear had to be put to sleep on-site because he had eaten human remains. It was too dangerous to keep him alive following the incident.
“Our wildlife biologists who are experts in dealing with bear-human conflict believe that once a bear has scavenged on human remains, there is a high potential that they’re going to continue that behavior,” said park spokeswoman Jamie Sanders. “And so we believe that they may pose a serious threat to visitor safety.”
Black bears in Great Smoky National Park
About 16,000 black bears live in the Great Smoky Mountains. Bear attacks are not a common sight, but park staffers have recorded five bear attacks with one death. Each of the bears was euthanized on-site.
Four people were attacked in the park
2015: Site 84, a bear pulled a 16-year-old boy out of his hammock by his scalp. The father scared away the animal and prevented any greater damage.
2018: Park rangers spotted a bear scavenging human remains in Townsend. The man had died of an overdose.
2000: A bear killed a 50-year-old woman in the Elkmont area
2008: Abear pounced on an 8-year-old kid in the creek. The boy scared it off, but the bear came back immediately. The boy’s father scared the bear away, and they were admitted to a hospital.
Black bear safety
Great Smoky Mountain National Park officials warn visitors against approaching black bears. It’s illegal to approach a bear within 150 feet and visitors have to check the “Bear Closures” and “Bear Warnings” sections on the official website before going on an adventure.
There are also some protocols visitors should follow.
-- Be watchful
-- Do not approach the black bear
-- Do not allow the black bear to come any near
-- If your presence irritates the bear and it stops eating, changes direction, or watches you constantly, you are too close to the animal.
-- Being close to a black bear may cause unexpected behavior. The bear may start running toward you and making loud noises. It can also swat the ground. Bears need a lot of space. Don’t run away. Take a step back while remaining watchful. Walk away to create “healthy distance.” The bear will do the same.
If the bear follows you without making any noise:
-- Change direction
-- If the bear is still here, stand still
-- If the bear comes any closer, start shouting at it
-- Act aggressively to scare the animal away
-- Move to a higher spot to look bigger and act together with your companions
-- Throw rocks and other non-food items at the animal
-- Stout stick is the perfect deterrent
-- Don’t turn away from the animal and don’t run
-- Leaving any food will lead to bigger problems
If the bear follows you for your food and you are attacked
-- Leave the food
-- Back away. SLOWLY.
If the bear doesn’t want your food and you are attacked, you may be viewed as a prey
-- Fight back with anything you can find
-- DO NOT PLAY DEAD!
Visitors need to store their food and dispose of their garbage properly. Any unattended food or garbage will attract bears, putting your life in danger. The animal is in danger, too.
Follow protocols to protect yourself and animals in the mountain. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park offers so many beautiful sites. Don’t spoil that with an ignorant mistake.