GSMNP: Wrong bear euthanized after hiker attacked

The Spence Field Shelter in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of the southeastern United States. The shelter stands near the junction of the Appalachian Trail and the Eagle Creek Trail, at an elevation of 4,915 ft/1,500m. (Brian Stansberry/Creative Commons)

ROBBINSVILLE, N.C. (WATE) – Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials now say the bear euthanized for the biting of a hiker, was not the culprit.

The park performed two DNA analyses for the deceased bear and a male bear found in the area. Both bears did not match the results.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokeswoman Dana Soehn said on Friday, wildlife staff observed an adult male bear believed to be the one that bit Bradley Veeder, 49, of Las Vegas. They darted and tranquilized the bear and after examination and consultation with the park superintendent, humanely euthanized it.

Veeder was bitten last Tuesday on the leg through his tent while he was sleeping. The bear got scared and ran away before anyone could see it. Later that night, Soehn said the bear returned and tore through the vacant tent again.

A park spokesperson stated, “While human injury is rare, we have recently had multiple incidents of bears ripping into tents in the backcountry. The months of May and June are particularly difficult for bears due to the lack of abundant natural foods.”

The park said in a statement transporting the suspected bears to a Spence Field holding facility for DNA samples was not a “practical option.” The park claims it would have been hard to tranpsort the deceased bear due to it weighing 400-pounds and it’s location from the facility. The facility is six miles from the area.

The other bear had a GPS-tracking collar for managers to know where the animal was before DNA tests were able to be performed.

“Bears are iconic symbols in the Smokies and a decision to euthanize an animal is not made lightly,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Park staff have worked diligently over the last year to develop viable alternatives to euthanasia. Understandably, these options won’t be appropriate responses for every bear incident. In the interest of responsibly protecting hiker safety in America’s most visited national park, we make our decisions based on the best available information for each particular situation.”

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