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Medical Examiner: Man likely died in 2020 to bear attack in the Great Smoky Mountains backcountry

The incident is the second bear-related fatality in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, officials said.

TENNESSEE, USA — (Update 8/19/2021 at 9:50 a.m.) The North Carolina office of the Chief Medical Examiner released a final report confirming that Patrick Madura, an Illinois man scheduled to stay at a backcountry campsite in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last summer, died likely due to a trauma caused by a bear.

Park officials said that Madura, 43, of Elgin, Illinois, had a backcountry reservation for a multi-night trip. He was scheduled to stay at campsite 82.

On September 11, 2020, backpackers initially found an unoccupied tent at campsite 82, a backcountry campsite in the park’s Hazel Creek Area. 

They later discovered what appeared to be human remains across the creek with a bear scavenging in the area and reported the incident to authorities, officials said.

Madura's reservation was for only one person, and rangers found only one tent and sleeping bag at the campsite. 

His body was taken to the North Carolina office of the Chief Medical Examiner, located in Raleigh. 

On August 19, the North Carolina office of the Chief Medical Examiner released a final report confirming that Madura died last summer likely due to trauma caused by a bear.

When the rangers came to investigate Madura's death, they euthanized the black bear that was scavenging his remains, because they don't want the animals to associate people with food.

Hazel Creek Trail and campsite 82 were closed in response to the incident and have since reopened.

Though black bears are very common in the Smokies, an attack on humans is very rare.

The park takes active measures to prevent human-bear conflicts, including:

  • Providing aerial storage cables for backpackers to hang their gear and food
  • Educating visitors on how to respond if a bear is encountered on the trail or in a campsite
  • Closing backcountry campsites when bear activity is reportedly high in a given area

Officials said that hikers are reminded to take necessary precautions while in bear country, including hiking in groups of three or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly following food storage regulations, and remaining at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times.

The incident is the second bear-related fatality in the history of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, officials said.

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