Bear attack kills 6-year-old girl

Mother, 2-year-old son injured in incident at Tennessee forest

traps set for animal

April 15, 2006|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Game wardens in a remote Tennessee forest set traps baited with doughnuts and sardines yesterday to lure a bear that attacked an Ohio family, killing a 6-year-old girl and mauling her mother and 2-year-old brother, authorities said.

The adult black bear attacked the mother and her two children Thursday afternoon at a waterfall in Cherokee National Forest. The children had been playing in a pool at the base of the falls, about a mile up a trail from where they had parked, said Dan Hicks, a spokesman for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Officials tried to track the bear with dogs overnight, but gave up in the early morning and resorted to setting traps yesterday, Hicks said. There was no sign of the animal by late afternoon.

"Each minute that ticks away makes us concerned that it may travel outside of this area," Hicks said in a phone interview. "It may be territorial and not have traveled at all. It may be laying down here 20 feet from where I'm standing."

The mother and son were at Erlanger Hospital in Chattanooga, where the boy was in critical but stable condition after surgery and the mother was in critical condition, according to a hospital spokesman. Both were treated for possible exposure to rabies.

Hicks said authorities were not releasing the identities of the victims, other than to say that they were from Ohio.

Cherokee National Forest is a 640,000-acre area in mountainous eastern Tennessee.

The mother and her children were playing at the waterfall with other families about 4 p.m. when another family encountered the bear.

The family retreated to the pool, but the bear apparently tracked them, bursting out of the brush near the waterfall. As adults tried to scare the animal away, it seized the 2-year-old boy's head in its jaws. The mother tried to fight it off, and the animal grabbed her instead and dragged her into the woods.

The little girl apparently fled. When responders arrived, one of them found the bear hovering over the girl's body in the woods.

The bear fled when a member of a local rescue squad fired at the animal with a pistol, but it wasn't immediately clear whether it was hit.

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