Arkansas Toddler Bit By Bear

Bear Has Been Captured, Is Slated To Be Killed

KTHV Little Rock, Bear Hunting Magazine
07/13/2006

A bear attack in the Ouachita Mountains of Polk County has heightened awareness of the need for caution when camping in the wilds of Arkansas. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reminds everyone that bears are wild animals and should remain that way.

According to reports, a black bear attacked a 23-month-old boy in his family's tent at the Shady Lake Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest late Tuesday afternoon. The boy was not seriously injured, although he had scrapes and marks on an arm.

The bear apparently was attracted to the campground by food scraps that were found near the tent. A pile of charcoal with what appeared to be grease from food was about three yards from the tent. The bear was scavenging through the pile of charcoal just before the attack occurred, according to reports from campers in the area. AGFC biologists will euthanize the bear when caught.

The attack was very unusual for a black bear in Arkansas, according to Rick Eastridge, AGFC bear program coordinator.

"This has been a slow year for nuisance bear complaints in Arkansas," Eastridge said. "We just haven't had the calls like in past years."
Black bears typically eat vegetation. "They normally are looking for things such as blackberries, blueberries, cherries, ants or grubs," Eastridge said. "The bear just saw an opportunity with the food scraps and drippings and apparently one thing led to another."

Eastridge pointed out that people trigger most bear problems in Arkansas. "It appears that this bear had all the characteristics of a bear that had been around people and had lost its fear of humans. Bears under those conditions become habituated to people and may become dangerous."

Eastridge said this was a good lesson for people to learn about feeding wild animals. "Feeding of bears, whether on purpose or not, will result in a bear becoming more aggressive toward humans. In this case, it was fortunate that the injury was not life threatening. As for the bear having to be euthanized, we have to be concerned that this habituated bear may injure someone else."

The AGFC and other state and federal agencies that manage bears know from experience that euthanizing this black bear is the correct decision, said David Goad, AGFC deputy director.

"To release a bear with such tendencies would be irresponsible upon the part of the AGFC," said Goad, a former AGFC bear biologist. "There just aren't any places in Arkansas that are large enough for a bear to be released and not be back around people in a few hours. Decisions to euthanize wildlife are the result of a great deal of research and discussion by the AGFC and its personnel."

UPDATE

A bear believed to have attacked a toddler at a national forest campground in Polk County has been trapped and is to be put to death.

State wildlife officials say the 23-month-old boy wasn't seriously injured. He was attacked inside his family's tent Tuesday as the boy and his mother lay napping. The boy's mother scared the bear off. The boy had scratches, but no serious injuries.

The next day, three traps were set in and around the campground at the Shady Lake Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest in southeastern Polk County. A bear turned up in one of those traps Wednesday afternoon.

Bear biologist Rick Eastridge said he's confident that the quick capture means they got the right bear. Officials say the bear was probably attracted by the odor of food and grease.

The bear was to be taken to the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission offices in Little Rock, where it was to be killed and its carcass tested for rabies.



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