A family camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park woke in the night to find a bear tearing into their tent on Sunday. The two parents, their six-year-old daughter, and their dog were disturbed at about 5:30am when the bear entered searching for food.
As CBS News reports, the animal then attacked the girl and her mother, though the pair escaped with only superficial injuries. The father eventually managed to frighten the bear away after several attempts.
"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 at the park, in a statement.
"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."
After the attack, park officials interviewed the father and gathered evidence including tracks from the campsite. They were then able to identify and trap the bear, which was humanely euthanized.
Keep yourself safe at camp
Great Smoky Mountains is one of the best National Parks for backpacking, but also has a large population of bears. They live at all elevations in the park, with an average population density of two bears per square mile.
Encounters between bears and people are on the rise in many states, and the animals seem to be getting bolder in their search for food. The US Forest Service has warned visitors to take particular care of their belongings, as bears have been reported carrying away backpacks, and even tearing bear bags down from trees. A typical male black bear weighs around 250lb in the summer, so the animal at the campsite had likely been accessing human food.
To find out how to keep yourself and your family safe, see our guide on what to do if you meet a bear.
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Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 13 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better).