2020 death in Great Smoky Mountains was second bear-related fatality in park history

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NORTH CAROLINA (WATE) — Nearly a year after the remains of an Illinois man were found in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner reports Patrick Madura died due to trauma caused by a bear.

In September of 2020, Madura’s remains were found by backpackers near the Hazel Creek Area and reported a bear was scavenging the area. When authorities arrived, they observed the bear actively scavenging on the human remains and promptly euthanized it.

This is the second bear-related fatality in the history of GSMNP, according to a spokesperson with the National Park Service.

    The park takes active measures in the backcountry to prevent human-bear conflicts, including:  

    • Providing aerial storage cables for backpackers to hang their gear and food,  
    • Educating visitors on how to respond if a bear is encountered on the trail or in a campsite, and  
    • Closing backcountry campsites when bear activity is reportedly high in a given area.    

    “Bears are an iconic symbol in the Smokies, but they are also dangerous wild animals, and their behavior is sometimes unpredictable,” said Bill Stiver, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist. “There are inherent risks associated with hiking and camping in bear country. Black bears are the largest predator in the park, and although rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injury and death.” 

    Staying safe while in bear country, according to GSMNP

    Hikers are reminded to take necessary precautions while in bear country, including hiking in groups of three or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly following food storage regulations, and remaining at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times.  

    If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available. Remember that the bear may view you as prey. In this circumstance, people should attempt to look large and not run or turn away from the bear. 

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