Mother, child attacked while sleeping after bear rips open tent, rangers say

Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 8:33 AM EDT
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GATLINBURG, T.N. (FOX Carolina) - A mother and her small child were sleeping in a tent with their family when they were injured by a bear at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, according to park rangers.

Park rangers say a family of five were sleeping in their tent at Elkmont Campground with their dog when a black bear ripped into the tent at approximately 5:20 a.m. on Sunday, June 12. After getting into the tent, the bear scratched a 3-year-old girl and her mother.

The father was able to scare the bear from the tent and campsite, but only after several attempts, the rangers said

We’re told the family left a note at the campground office to report the incident and departed the campground to seek medical attention. Both mother and daughter sustained superficial lacerations to their heads.

Park officials said they were notified at 8:50 a.m. by campground hosts and closed the area to investigate. Staff monitored the site for bear activity and set traps in the area.

Shortly after, rangers said a male bear matching the physical description of the involved bear entered the campsite where the initial incident occurred. The bear exhibited extreme food-conditioned behavior and lack of fear of humans, boldly entering the trap without wariness.

Based on a match with physical measurements and descriptors, along with observed bear behavior, wildlife biologists successfully matched and identified the responsible bear.

“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 a news release. “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.”

Though rare, attacks on humans can occur, causing injuries or death. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available, and remember that the bear may view you as prey.

For more information on bear safety, click here.

To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.

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