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Bear euthanized after injuring worker at park concession stand in Tennessee

6/25: CBS Morning News
6/25: CBS Morning News 20:40

Wildlife officials in Tennessee euthanized a bear matching the description of a bear that wandered into a concession stand and helped itself to food before charging at an employee, authorities said.

The bear was caught on camera inside the concession stand — fittingly named Bear Can — on Thursday night at Anakeesta, an outdoor adventure park in eastern Tennessee, officials said in a news release. The bear stood on its hind legs for a few seconds while looking at customers and eating food, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. 

The bear appeared to be on its way out of the stand when it encountered a worker, startling them both and resulting in "brief physical contact" with a park employee, the agency said. The worker suffered minor, superficial injuries to her arm and back. 

Afterward, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency caught several bears. One bear "fitting the description of the bear involved in the concession stand incident" was euthanized after being caught, the agency said. Two others — a female with four cubs and a larger male bear — were caught and then released.

"TWRA does not enjoy having to euthanize any wildlife, especially bears, and we don't do it indiscriminately," Dan Gibbs, a state black bear coordinator, said.

The agency uses a Bear Conflict Matrix to determine if euthanization is appropriate, Gibbs said, adding that this bear was not a candidate for relocation because it had entered a stand with people present and made physical contact with a worker. 

Officials with the wildlife agency and the park met on Monday to discuss temporary garbage storage and food access issues inside the park. After the incident with the bear, Anakeesta bought temporary electric fencing and electrified "unwelcome mats" for use when the park is closed to guests, state officials said. The park also ordered steel caging to secure concession stand doors. 

There is a large population of black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which surrounds Anakeesta on three sides. "Bears are a big part of the magic in the Great Smoky Mountains," said Austin Martin, Anakeesta communications manager. "The Anakeesta team works diligently to create a safe space to co-exist with the native wildlife."

Tennessee is home to approximately 5,000 to 6,000 bears.

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