A bear had to be killed after it was found eating human remains in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, park officials reported on Saturday.
A group of hikers walking the North Carolina arm of the Hazel Creek Trail, just a few miles from the Tennessee border, passed what appeared to be a deserted campsite. Across the creek, they spotted a black bear scavenging near what they thought was a body. The hikers quickly vacated the area to find a spot with a cell phone signal to call for help.
Park rangers received the call just after 7 pm Friday and arrived at campsite 82 shortly after midnight. Officials confirmed the report of a deceased adult human male.
The bear was still in the area, actively scavenging on the remains. Park officials euthanized the bear.
Local authorities have identified the victim as Patrick Madura, 43, of Elgin, Illinois, and it has not yet been confirmed if the bear was responsible for his death.
The cause of death is unknown, and the case remains under active investigation”
– NPS said in a statement
The park, which covers a half-million acres of rugged, forested terrain across eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, is the busiest in the National Park Service, setting a record last year with 12.5 million visitors.