The body of William Lee Hill Jr. was discovered by authorities last Tuesday off Rich Mountain Road, about two miles north of Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, reported Knox News. The body showed signs of being scavenged by wildlife over a period of several days, park officials said.
As rangers worked to recover the body that evening, an adult black bear stayed in the area and behaved aggressively for hours, officials said.
Biologists managed to trap the bear long enough to apply a GPS tracking collar. They also recovered “human DNA” from the bear, the park said in a news release Wednesday.
On Sunday morning, park rangers euthanized the bear “out of concern for public safety.” Park officials determined the best course of action would be to humanely euthanize the bear. The release noted the bear was living near several residential areas, and it quoted park Superintendent Cassius Cash as saying, “We could not take the risk of allowing this bear to approach or show aggression towards other people.”
Park officials typically euthanize bears by shooting them directly in the brain. The park service said that despite knowing the animal’s location, rangers had trouble getting close enough “for a clean shot to be taken to humanely euthanize it.”
The bear evaded death until 9:45 a.m. Sunday, when officials fatally shot the animal.
Questions remain about the death of Hill, a 30-year-old man from Louisville, Tennessee, who was reported missing Sept. 9 after he and a friend traveled to the park Sept. 7 to search for ginseng. Hill and his friend somehow became separated inside the park, and Hill was not heard from again, according to the park service.
As of Sunday afternoon, authorities had not released information on Hill’s cause of death.