A 350-pound black bear was killed after it tore into a tent in a national park in the US and injured a three-year-old girl and her mother.
ark officials said the bear entered the Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee at 5.20am on Sunday while a family of five were sleeping in their tent.
The bear reportedly tore into the family’s tent and scratched the mother and the little girl on their heads.
The father of the family was eventually able to scare the bear away. The family left a note at the campground office notifying officials about the attack and left to get medical treatment for the mother and child.
Both were treated for non-life-threatening lacerations on their heads, according to National Park Service (NPS) officials.
Staff set traps in the campground area for the bear and tracked it down. After finding the bear and trapping it, NPS officials said the animal was humanely euthanised.
According to park officials, the bear had become accustomed to humans and no longer showed fear from human encampments. The bear reportedly “boldly” entered the trap set by park officials. They determined it had to be euthanised because it posed “a risk to human safety”.
“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,” Lisa McInnis, the park’s Chief of Resource Management in a statement.
According to NPS officials, the bear’s behaviour suggested that it was not predating on the family, but rather it had become accustomed to eating human food and was searching for it in the tent.
There is a rise in bear attacks in May and June when their natural foods, like berries, are not yet available in the wilderness. Park officials said the bear likely smelled food in the area of the campsite.
“In this incident, the bear was likely attracted to food smells throughout the area, including dog food at the involved campsite,” Ms McInnis said. “It is very difficult to deter this learned behaviour and, as in this case, the result can lead to an unacceptable risk to people.”
Experts recommend hanging food items at least 10 feet off the ground and five feet from trees when camping. Many campsites have bear proof lockers for food storage specifically to diminish the potential for human food to draw the animals toward campsites.
While bears are dangerous wild animals, deadly attacks are still relatively rare, with only 25 people being killed across North America in the last 20 years.