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UPDATE: Officials found, killed Smokies bear associated with death investigation, park spokeswoman says

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The Gatlinburg entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL The Gatlinburg entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park MICHAEL PATRICK/NEWS SENTINEL

UPDATE: (WBIR) - Park officials have shot and killed the bear associated with the investigation into a man's death.

Spokeswoman Julena Campbell said it happened around 9:45 Sunday morning.

A news release Wednesday said the National Park Service had euthanized a male bear after finding it near a man's body in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On Friday, the park said rangers actually had not yet found and killed the bear.

Park officials anticipated they would quickly kill the bear after issuing the news release, but they did not as fast as was assumed, Campbell said.

Campbell said the release announcing the decision to put down the bear was made under the assumption that authorities could quickly re-locate that animal.

Rangers did not find the bear until Sunday morning.

Read more from WBIR's website.


PREVIOUS STORY: (WBIR) - Despite issuing a news release Wednesday that said the National Park Service had euthanized a male bear after finding it near a man's body in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rangers actually have not yet found and killed the bear, a park spokeswoman said Friday.

The bear, targeted after it was found near a 30-year-old man's body Tuesday, has a GPS collar to track it. Park authorities have closed off the Rich Mountain Road area where the bear last was seen and are tracking it in the daytime to find it, spokeswoman Julena Campbell told Knoxville NBC affiliate 10News.

But despite anticipating that they would quickly kill the bear after issuing the news release, they still have not, she said.

Campbell said the release announcing the decision to put down the bear was made under the assumption that authorities could quickly re-locate that animal.

Wednesday's release included a quote from Park Superintendent Cassius Cash: "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 the bear out of concern for the safety of park visitors and local residents.

"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 the bear to approach or show aggression towards other people."

How it happened

On Tuesday afternoon, the body of William Lee Hill Jr., of Louisville, was found off the road about 2 miles north of Cades Cove.

Park officials had been told Sunday that Hill and another man had gone to the park on Friday to look for ginseng. They'd gone different directions. Hill hadn't been seen from or heard from since.

An ensuing search led to discovery of his body Tuesday off a trail about a half mile from Rich Mountain.

Read more at WBIR's website.


PREVIOUS STORY: (AP) - The National Park Service says the scavenged body of a missing man has been found at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that straddles Tennessee and North Carolina.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reports rangers found 30-year-old William Lee Hill Jr., of Tennessee, on Wednesday. The park service says Hill and a friend were illegally hunting for ginseng in the park Friday. It says Hill and his friend were separated, and Hill wasn't heard from again.

A bear with human DNA on it was also found in the area Wednesday and acted aggressive when rangers attempted to recover Hill's body. The park service says the bear has been euthanized "out of concern for public safety." It says Hill's body showed signs of wildlife scavenging over several days. An investigation is ongoing.

Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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