Bears can be threat in great outdoors

Published 2:59 pm Wednesday, March 7, 2001

Outdoors Columnist
On May 21, 2000 a 50-year-old Tennessee schoolteacher was killed and partly eaten by a female black bear and her cub. The attack took place in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park located in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina. This fatality was the first ever attributed to a black bear in a national park and the first documented case of a human being killed by a black bear in the southeastern United States.
According to park officials, Ms. Glenda Bradley was walking with a companion on the Little River Trail about three miles east of Elkmont campground. Her companion stopped to fish while she continued exploring the trail. After fishing for a while, he began searching for Ms. Bradley. He first found her pack and then the grizzly discovery – the body of the victim with a grown female bear and large cub standing guard over their kill.
The companion tried in vain to chase the bears away. Even with the assistance of campers and hikers who threw sticks and rocks at the two bears, they would not leave the victim. When park rangers arrived at the scene they shot both bears.
Although no one can say for sure, the fact that the bears guarded their kill and would not leave is indicative of bear behavior after a predacious attack, according to park officials.
So, how likely is it that you will be attacked in the wide-open spaces by a bear? Not likely at all when you compute the odds. But there are things you can do and not do to reduce the likely-hood of an attack even farther.
Many park encounters with bears involves food. It is important to store food in bear proof containers when provided, or to suspend food items in a bag or pack between two trees at least 15 feet up. The container must also be at least 4 feet from the tree to prevent a climbing bear from getting it. Remember to avoid discarding partially eaten food items on the ground around camp.
If you see a bear on a trail, do not approach. When a bear begins to act abnormally or appears nervous, don't run but back away slowly and leave the area. If the bear continues to follow, change your direction and continue walking. If he gets too close and you think an attack is imminent, stand your ground. Stand on your tiptoes and extend your hands high in the air to appear much larger than you are. Shout, throw rocks or beat on a metal container to frighten the bear. If attacked, fight with any weapon available. A sharpened walking staff is good, better yet is pepper spray bear repellent. From all reports it really works. Maybe the bear thinks a giant skunk is spraying him and it's time to call off the attack and get back to the den.

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