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350-pound bear euthanized after ripping into family’s tent, scratching child and mother

Park officials said the bear, which burst into the tent at Elkmont Campground in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park early Sunday morning, was likely attracted to food smells, including dog food.
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A 350-pound black bear was euthanized after it ripped into a tent at Great Smoky Mountains National Park and injured a 3-year-old girl and her mother, park officials said.

The bear wandered into Elkmont Campground around 5:20 a.m. Sunday as a family of five was sleeping in a tent with their dog. The bear burst into the tent, scratching the mother and child on their heads.

After several attempts, the father was able to scare off the animal. The family left a note for the campground office and took the mother and child to receive treatment for superficial lacerations, officials with the national park said in a news release.

The bear was later tracked down after staff set traps in the campground area. It was humanely euthanized, the news release states.

Officials said the animal "exhibited extreme food-conditioned behavior and lack of fear of humans" and had "boldly" entered the trap. It was euthanized because it posed a "risk to human safety."

"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 the park's Chief of Resource Management Lisa McInnis in a statement.

Officials said the bear's behavior was inconsistent with predatory behavior and instead suggested that the animal had become conditioned to eating human food. The park said bear attacks are more prevalent in May and June because natural foods, like berries, aren't available in the wilderness yet.

"In this incident, the bear was likely attracted to food smells throughout the area, including dog food at the involved campsite," McInnis said. "It is very difficult to deter this learned behavior and, as in this case, the result can lead to an unacceptable risk to people."