The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

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Rangers shot and killed bear eating body at campsite 82

(This story has been updated)

A black bear killed a man whose body was found by backpackers at a Hazel Creek campsite in September 2020.

Patrick Madura died “due to trauma caused by a bear,” according to a news release from Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

He would be only the second park visitor known to be killed in a bear attack in the 80-year history of the national park.

Glenda Bradley was killed in a predatory bear attack on the Little River trail in 2000. Two bears were shot and killed by park rangers after a Boy Scout troop came upon the incident. The animals, a sow and yearling, were eating and attempting to cache Bradley’s body when they were killed. 

Madura’s body was found by backpackers arriving at campsite 82 on Sept. 11, 2020. They first noticed an empty tent, then saw a bear “scavenging” the victim’s body across the creek. 

Rangers responding to the subsequent emergency call found a bear eating Madura’s body and shot and killed the animal. Hazel Creek Trail and the campsite were temporarily closed following the incident.

Madura, 43, of Elgin, Illinois was hiking and camping alone when he was attacked, according to the park service. No additional information about food storage issues or what may have precipitated the attack was immediately available from the park service.

Madura was an accomplished outdoorsman with a masters in biology and was trained as an EMT and firefighter, according to local reporting from the Chicago area following his death last year.  

Fatal attacks are extremely rare, given the number of visitors to the national park, the most visited in the country. Nonfatal attacks, while still rare, are more common. A bear attacked a teenager as she slept in a hammock near the Maddron Bald trail in the Cosby area earlier this year; she was airlifted from the park with serious injuries but was expected to make a full recovery. The bear involved in that attack was euthanized as well.

Rangers urge visitors to be Bearwise, but regularly encounter improper interactions between bears and visitors, such as an incident this summer in which a woman was cited for feeding a bear peanut butter from a vehicle in Cades Cove.

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