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TWRA: Mother bear euthanized after scratching 90-year-old woman on her porch in Sevier County

The TWRA said the woman shook a lawn chair at the approaching bear and her yearlings to scare them off when the mother bear scratched her on the arm and ran away.

SEVIER COUNTY, Tenn. — Authorities euthanized another East Tennessee black bear after they said it scratched a woman as she sat on her porch in Sevier County Wednesday afternoon.

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, a 90-year-old woman was sitting on a porch swing when a mother bear and three yearlings approached.

The TWRA said the woman shook a lawn chair at the bears to scare them off when the mother bear scratched her on the arm and ran away.

The woman drove herself to the hospital and is being treated for non-life-threatening injuries, the TWRA said.

Wildlife officers said they euthanized the bear and are monitoring the behavior of her yearlings. The TWRA said people in the area have not reported seeing any other nuisance issues with this group of bears.

"If possible, always make your presence known while in bear country and defend yourself when confronted by a black bear," TWRA said.

This is the second bear that has been euthanized in the past seven days for attacking someone. On June 12, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park reported a bear had ripped into a tent and scratched a mother and her 3-year-old child at an Elkmont campsite. Rangers said they captured the bear and euthanized it on Monday.

“In this incident, the bear was likely attracted to food smells throughout the area, including dog food at the involved campsite," said Lisa McInnis, Chief of Resource Management with GSMNP. "It is very difficult to deter this learned behavior and, as in this case, the result can lead to an unacceptable risk to people.” 

McInnis said the best way to prevent bear attacks is to keep food or anything with a strong smell stored away in a secure spot. 

"So anything with smells — candles, deodorant, shampoo, perfume — try to avoid those things when you go camping if you can," she said.

Most of all, experts said people should not feed the bears. They prepared a list of resources to help people stay safe from bears which are available online. The website has six specific basics to stay safe from bears.

  1. Stay alert and stay together
  2. Leave no trash or food scraps
  3. Keep dogs leashed
  4. Camp safely, away from dense cover and natural food sources
  5. Do not approach bears if you see one
  6. Carry bear spray and learn how to use it

McInnis said the bear was euthanized because it was food-conditioned and not afraid of humans, which can be dangerous for people in the park.

"It really represented a pretty significant public safety risk," she said. "So it's unfortunate, but what we can do is go is be better going forward by helping educate each other.” 

Park rangers said it was a tough decision to euthanize the bear. They are asking people to stay BearWise while visiting the Great Smoky Mountains to keep them from having to euthanize the animals.

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