KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Preliminary forensic results were not able to confirm if a captured black bear was responsible for killing a 6-year-old girl and injuring her mother and brother, officials said Tuesday.
Trapping will continue around the Cherokee National Forest swimming hole in southeast Tennessee where Elora Petrasek of Clyde, Ohio, was fatally mauled and her mother, Susan Cenkus, 45, and 2-year-old brother, Luke Cenkus, were injured on April 13.
The suspected male bear was captured three days after the attack not far from the swimming hole. Tissue and hair samples collected from a necropsy completed Monday at the University of Tennessee Veterinary School will undergo further tests.
Tests showed the bear, which was euthanized, did not have rabies. An examination of the bear's digestive system found no evidence of human remains or clothing, UT spokeswoman Sandra Harbison said. Pathologist Robert Donnell said Monday that too much time may have elapsed since the attack to find such traces.
However, tissue samples were being sent off for further study in search of human DNA. Additional studies to match the bear's DNA on fur samples collected from the victims and in the attack area were planned.
Black bears normally are shy and there have been only 56 documented killings of humans by members of the species in North America in the past 100 years. The previous fatal attack was in 2000, when a woman day hiking in the Smokies was killed.
Officials suspect the bear that mauled the Ohio family was hungry and just waking from winter hibernation. They called it a likely predatory attack, not the result of some provocation by the victims.