A federal campground north of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is closed indefinitely as officials search for a bear that has been deemed a safety threat.
The black bear has been lingering among campers at Paint Creek Campground in Cherokee National Forest, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The campground is near the Tennessee-North Carolina border and the closest town is Greeneville, Tennessee.
Investigators say the bear has not attacked anyone, but it has remained in and around the campground for weeks.
Euthanizing the bear has not been ruled out, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says.
“Based on the reported behavior of the bear, it is certainly conditioned to foods in the campground and losing its fear of people,” TWRA Black Bear Program Leader said in a news release.
“An effort to trap the bear is the preferred course of action. This will reduce opportunity for its behavior to escalate which could result in injury to someone utilizing the campground.”
Safety concerns involving bears have heightened in the region after a 16-year-old girl was attacked as she slept in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The girl survived but was hospitalized with lacerations to the head, officials said. The bear responsible for the attack was killed by rangers at the scene, officials said.
Black bears can reach up to 600 pounds and have “strong claws and teeth,” according to federal officials.
“Black bears in the wild are opportunistic, feeding on whatever is readily available,” the U.S. Forest Service said in the release.
“Food odors and improperly stored garbage will attract bears to campsites and picnic areas, even when humans are around. Though bears are naturally afraid of humans, bears habituated to human food can begin to associate human scents with the reward of food. Due to this, bears can become a threat to humans, property, and themselves.”