Euthanized bear cleared in attack on hiker at Great Smoky Mountains

A DNA test came too late for a bear in the Great Smoky Mountains, because workers had killed it before the evidence cleared the bear in an attack on a hiker, park officials announced Monday.

Bradley Veeder, 49, said the bear bit his leg through his tent before tearing through other tents earlier this month, WATE reported. Veeder said he'd been hiking the Appalachian Trail. The national park is located on Tennessee's border with North Carolina.

Three days later, the first bear that appeared at the campsite after the reported attack matched Veeder's description. It weighed nearly 400 pounds. At first, workers tranquilized the black bear.

“We had reason to believe it was the bear involved in the attack. There were some dental injury on its canines that matched up to the puncture wounds on Mr. Veeder,” park spokeswoman Dana Soehn told the news agency.

Workers submitted samples for DNA testing, but concluded quickly that their only feasible option was to kill the animal. They told Reuters it was too big to fit a tracking collar over its head, and too heavy to carry for six miles out of the back country.

Park officials announced the grim news when the test results returned: They killed the wrong bear.

Still, they said they were optimistic they could track down and identify dangerous animals more quickly. “DNA profiling for bears is relatively new and we had been waiting weeks to get information back, but over the last year... we’ve been able to get lab results back in a two week time period,” Soehn told reporters.

Doctors treated and released Veeder the day after the attack, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.