Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camper Reportedly Killed by Bear Attack, New Autopsy Results Show

by Shelby Scott

Bear attacks in the United States are relatively uncommon. However, a recent autopsy found that one Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camper died in an attack last year. Although the attack took place last year, this particular autopsy was quite time-consuming – the report just recently reached the public.

According to a National Park Service report, a group of backpackers found 43-year-old Patrick Madura’s unoccupied tent while hiking. Following the hikers‘ discovery of the empty tent at Hazel Creek Campsite 82, they then discovered possible human remains across the creek as a black bear scavenged the area. The attack seemingly took place on September 11 of last year.

Authorities shot and killed a 240-pound bear seen scavenging the site of the human remains. This took place prior to the autopsy’s determination. Although they did not know whether the bear killed Madura at the time, authorities took the shot out of precaution. After all, the park’s chief of resource management, Lisa McInnis, said last year, “Feeding on a human remains is a behavior that once learned, bears learn to repeat.”

The fact itself is rather morbid. However, it makes sense as black bears are indeed scavengers and typically feed on anything they find edible and appealing. McInnis stated, however, officials never take the euthanization of the park’s bears lightly.

Just How Common Are Black Bear Attacks?

Many rural-residing Americans are familiar with black bear sightings. Further, it’s uncommon to hear of an attack on a human in the area. Nevertheless, the attacks do happen as Madura’s death was caused by a confirmed bear attack. The autopsy report stated, “The cause of death is lacerated puncture wounds and blunt trauma of the head,” in addition to injuries sustained on the neck, torso, and extremities.

Additionally, the report found the bear which authorities killed did in fact have human tissue within its gastrointestinal tract. Therefore, Madura’s death could “most likely” be attributed to a bear attack, and also proved authorities killed the right beast.

Nevertheless, Madura’s attack isn’t the only one to occur recently in the park. USA Today reports that this June, a 16-year-old girl endured pretty serious injuries following a bear attack of her own. The news outlet stated she had been asleep in a hammock in the Cosby section of the Smokies. Though she survived, she suffered multiple injuries including a head laceration.

The aforementioned attacks followed the mauling of a 15-year-old girl in 2015 which also took place in the Hazel Creek area. A 2000 bear attack saw the death of 50-year-old Glenda Bradley in the Elkmont area.

The article shared that although there have only been two deaths resultant of bear attacks within the park, bear attacks themselves are more common than we might believe.