A man found dead in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was not killed by a bear, according to an autopsy released Monday, but by an accidental meth overdose.
William Lee Hill, Jr, 30, was found dead off-trail in the park on Sept. 9, 2018, about two miles north of Cades Cove. A bear had been feeding on Hill's body, and was still nearby.
Because of fears that Hill had been killed by the bear, it was trapped and euthanized a few days later.
A preliminary autopsy was inconclusive as to what killed Hill, but now the Knox County Regional Forensic Center has completed its examination and determined that Hill was not killed by the bear.
According to the report, "An autopsy revealed extensive postmortem animal predation, but no findings of antemortem/perimortem trauma (i.e. Mr. Hill was not attacked by a bear)."
The bear, however, had been eating parts of Hill's body.
The Blount County man had been searching for ginseng in the park with a friend, and the two became separated.
When searchers found his body, according to the autopsy, there were syringes and drug paraphernalia located near the body, according to the National Park Service. Also, according to the autopsy, Hill had a history of intravenous drug abuse including methamphetamine.
Without a clear cause of death at the time, park officials decided to euthanize the bear in the interest of public safety.
The park is home to an estimated 1,500 bears. It is not common for bears to exhibit aggressive behavior towards humans, though bears that become accustomed to being fed can be a danger to the park's 11 million visitors a year.
Park staffers use aversive-conditioning techniques and, on rare occasions, euthanize individual bears that pose a threat to visitor safety.