GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, Tenn. (WLOS) — A bear has been euthanized after searchers found the body of a man who had been missing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for several days.
Park officials said the body of William Lee Hill, Jr., 30, of Louisville, Tennessee was found off-trail on Tuesday afternoon, about two miles north of Cades Cove.
Authorities said his body showed "evidence of wildlife scavenging." An adult male bear remained in the area showing aggressive behaviors for many hours, even as rangers worked to recover Hill’s body throughout the evening.
After trapping the bear, park officials said wildlife biologists recovered human DNA from it.
"While the cause of Mr. Hill’s death is unknown at this time, after gathering initial evidence, consulting with other wildlife professionals and careful consideration, we made the difficult decision to euthanize this bear out of concern for the safety of park visitors and local residents," park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a release.
"This is always one of the hardest decisions a wildlife manager has to make and is one that we did not take lightly. Over 2 million visitors come to the Cades Cove area annually and there are several residential areas very close to where we found Mr. Hill’s body. We could not take the risk of allowing this bear to approach or show aggression towards other people.”
Park officials said they first received a report about Hill's disappearance on Sunday after he and a companion, Joshua Morgan, came to the park on Friday to look for ginseng. The two reportedly separated during the day and Hill had not been heard from since.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Mr. Hill during such a difficult time," Superintendent Cash said.
The incident remains under investigation. No additional details are available at this time.