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Bear Attack in
Great Smoky Mountains National Park


May 21, 2000



Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials report that the victim of the black bear attack on Sunday afternoon was Glenda Ann Bradley, 50, from Cosby, TN. Bradley was an elementary school teacher at Jones Cove Elementary. Her companion is her former husband, Ralph Hill, 52, also a resident of Cosby. The attack occurred between 2 p.m.-3 p.m. in the backcountry at the intersection of Little River and Goshen Prong Trails about 2.5 miles from the Little River trailhead where the couple parked their car. The couple entered the Park around noon. Hill left Bradley to fish on an island on the Little River. A short while later he went to look for Bradley and located her day pack. He discovered her body about 40-50 yards off trail. He noticed two bears, an adult female weighing 112 pounds and a yearling female weighing about 40 pounds, guarding the body. He tried to run off the bears, but the adult female showed aggressive behavior towards Hill. He went to seek additional assistance and a hiker ran to get help at the Elkmont campground, arriving at 5 p.m.

A Park Ranger was immediately dispatched to the scene and arrived at 6:05 p.m. Fifteen minutes later two other Park Rangers arrived. The Park Rangers observed the bears still near the body and shot the bears with their service weapons. A total of 17 Park personnel responded to the incident. The bears were sent to the University of Tennessee of Veterinary Medicine Department for a necropsy. The woman's body has been transported to East Tennessee State University for an autopsy. Park officials are almost 100 percent certain that the two bears were involved in the attack but the necropsy will confirm this fact. It appears that this was an unprovoked attack. According to the victim's family Bradley was an experienced day hiker who was familiar with the Park. Bradley's day pack which contained food was not disturbed. The adult female bear had been tagged in 1998 by University of Tennessee wildlife biologists for research purposes but never had shown any aggressive tendencies towards people before. By all indications this bear was truly a wild bear. But most past human/bear conflicts in the Smokies have been as a result of bear's either being fed human food and becoming habituated to human food. In the past decade, the Park has become increasingly proactive in both reducing available garbage in front country areas and providing effective food storage alternatives in the backcountry. Managers have also stepped up education programs to teach people about responsible food storage and to avoid conflicts with bears.

Acting Superintendent Philip A. Francis, Jr., said that " We want to stress that there is no indication whatsoever that Bradley did anything to provoke this attack. The fact remains that bears in the Smokies are wild and unpredictable animals. We will continue to reinforce the message that human food obtained by bears can lead to injuries." Four adjacent backcountry campsites 21, 23, 24, and 30 are still closed pending confirmation that the bears were the cause of Bradley's death.

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