A 350-pound black bear was euthanized after an incident in which it ripped through a tent and injured both a 3-year-old girl and her mother at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, park officials confirmed in a news release obtained by NBC News on Monday (June 14).
The incident took place at Elkmont Campground when the bear wandered into the area and burst into a tent where the family of five was sleeping with their dog at the time.
The bear scratched both the mother and child on their heads and, after several attempts, the father managed to scare off the animal. The family left a note for the campground office and the mother and child both received treatment for superficial lacerations, park officials confirmed in the news release.
The bear was later captured by traps set by staffers in the campground area and humanely euthanized, according to the news release.
Park officials said the bear “exhibited extreme food-conditioned behavior and lack of fear of humans,” adding that the animal had “boldly” entered the trap and was euthanized 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,” said Lisa McInnis, the park’s Chief of Resource Management, in a statement via NBC News.
McInnis added that the bear’s behavior wasn’t consistent with predatory behavior and it may have been conditioned to eating human food, rather than typical instances of bear attacks in which the animal’s natural foods, such as berries, are unavailable in its habitat due to seasonal changes.
“In this incident, the bear was likely attracted to food smells throughout the area, including dog food at the involved campsite,” McInnis said. “It is very difficult to deter this learned behavior and, as in this case, the result can lead to an unacceptable risk to people.”