National Park Service Announces Camper Found Dead in Smoky Mountains Was Killed by Bear

by Jon D. B.

The National Park Service’s findings confirm Patrick Madura’s death as the first known bear fatality in North Carolina, and only the second in the Great Smoky Mountains, to go on record.

Thursday brings closure to the horrible death of Patrick Madura last year in the Smokies. The ongoing investigation into Madura’s death has found that he likely died “due to trauma caused by a bear,” according to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and N.C. Chief Medical Examiner.

With these findings, Madura’s death comes as “the second bear-related fatality in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park,” officials state via their news release Aug. 19.

The incident took place on the North Carolina side of the Smokies. This makes Madura’s tragic death the first fatality from a bear on record in the state’s history.

There, backpackers would first stumble upon an empty tent “in the park’s Hazel Creek Area,” officials said. The September 14 discovery would lead the same group to stumble upon the horrible scene of Madura’s death.

“They later discovered what appeared to be human remains across the creek with a bear scavenging in the area,” the National Park says in a statement.

“Upon arriving at campsite 82, park law enforcement rangers and wildlife officers observed a bear actively scavenging on the remains and promptly euthanized the bear,” NPS officials continue. “Hazel Creek Trail and campsite 82 were closed in response to the incident and have since reopened.”

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Camper’s Death Confirmed as Bear Fatality

The bear responsible was euthanized immediately following the discoveries. Until Thursday, the death of 43-year-old Illinois resident Patrick Madura was still under investigation.

While black bear attacks remain relatively rare, they are on the rise. Around 1,500 American black bears call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park home. The park sees the most visitors of any NPS in the country, creating a recipe for frequent bear encounters.

Just two months prior to this NPS report, a black bear would attack and seriously injure a 16-year-old camper. The Tennessee girl was asleep in her hammock at 12:30 a.m. on June 18 in the Smokies. Then, the bear dragged her from it and continued to attack her.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park rangers would kill the bear afterwards. It would repeatedly return to the same campsite throughout the investigation, exhibiting dangerous behavior.

Such behavior is what led to the bear leaving the young girl with “multiple injuries including lacerations to the head,” officials say.

“Bears are an iconic symbol in the Smokies, but they are also dangerous wild animals… Their behavior is sometimes unpredictable” offers Bill Stiver, park supervisory wildlife biologist to the Smokies, in a statement.

“There are inherent risks associated with hiking and camping in bear country,” he continues. “Black bears are the largest predator in the park… And although rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injury and death.”

For tips on how to stay vigilant in bear country, visit Outsider’s wildlife technician’s Surviving a Black Bear: How to Prevent Encounters and Deter an Attack.