Bear euthanized after eating man’s body in national park; police now say man was already dead from overdose: Report

A man eaten by a bear at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee was apparently already deceased from a drug overdose prior to the animal ravaging his body.

Knoxville’s CBS 8 reports that William Lee Hill Jr., 30, died from “accidental methamphetamine intoxication.” Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials released the Knox County Regional Forensic Center’s autopsy report on Hill on Monday, five months after the man’s death in a wooded area in Townsend.

Hill was found deceased in September, four days after his friend, Joshua Morgan, lost sight of him while they were in the park searching for ginseng.

After a search crew found Hill, they saw the bear in question, who apparently remained in the area while displaying “aggressive behavior for hours,” according to Knox News. Biologists were called in the observe the bear, and they trapped the animal long enough to put a GPS collar in it and retrieve human DNA.

After releasing the bear and reviewing evidence, officials decided to euthanize the animal.

“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 last year in a news release.

According to The State, an examination of the bear during a necropsy revealed it did not have rabies. Although rabies in black bears is considered unusual, park officials received media inquiries about it.

“There really wasn’t any evidence that this bear had ‘anything wrong with it,’” clinician Ed Ramsay wrote.

Although Hill’s body showed “extensive post mortem animal predation,” the autopsy report stated there was no evidence that the bear attacked and killed the man. Authorities found drug paraphernalia and syringes next to Hill’s body, who reportedly had a history of drug use.

Authorities initially identified the man through personal belongings left at the scene and several tattoos.

“Very few bears exhibit aggressive behavior towards humans,” park officials said on Monday. “Wildlife biologists and park rangers work hard to prevent bears from becoming food-conditioned or habituated to high-use areas.

“Out of an abundance of caution for the park’s 11 million park visitors, park staff implement aversive-conditioning techniques and, on rare occasions, euthanize individual bears that pose a threat to visitor safety.”

[Feature Photo: Pixabay]