Smokies tourist bitten by black bear while trying to take photo

4:41 PM, May 14, 2010   |    comments
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A man who was visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was bitten by a black bear on Wednesday.

Park officials say the man was hiking on the Laurel Falls Trail.  He allowed the bear to get within inches of him so he could take a picture of it.  The bear bit the man's foot, leaving a small puncture wound.  It did not require medical attention.

On Thursday, wildlife biologists tracked and captured a small, 60 pound female bear.  They are also monitoring the trail to see if other bears frequent the area.

Once they are sure they have captured the bear involved, it will be euthanized.

According to a press release, park policy requires that a bear that contacts and/or injures a person must be euthanized. The park cannot take the risk of allowing a bear with this type of behavior to remain in the wild.

Officials believe this bear had become food conditioned from visitors leaving food remains along the trail or even feeding it. Food conditioned bears may be bold in their attempts to get food.

Visitors are urged to stay a minimum of 50 yards away from bears, because getting too close may prompt threatening behavior from the bear and result in an injury.   That regulation is in place to protect both Park visitors and bears.

Bears are especially active during spring looking for food.  Park officials say bears came out of their dens this spring a little hungrier than usual, since there was an inadequate crop of acorns in the fall.

Park officials have dealt with a higher number of bears than usual so far this year, and are asking visitors to be more diligent in keeping their distance and adhere to the proper food storage and disposal regulations.

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