A man's body found partially eaten by a black bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year died of a meth overdose, an autopsy found.
According to Knox News, search crews found the body of William Lee Hill Jr., 30, of Louisville, Tenn., in a wooded area off Rich Mountain Road in Townsend on Sept. 11 — four days after he became separated from a friend while searching for ginseng in the park.
Search crews found an adult black bear scavenging the body. The animal remained in the area and exhibited aggressive behavior for hours.
Biologists trapped the bear long enough to put a GPS tracking collar on it and recover human DNA from the animal. Officials released the bear, but after reviewing the evidence, decided to euthanize it.
"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 this bear out of concern for the safety of park visitors and local residents,” Park Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a Sept. 12 news release.
The bear evaded death until Sept. 16, when park rangers fatally shot the animal.
The autopsy of Hill's body revealed "extensive postmortem animal predation," but found no evidence he was attacked by the bear while he was alive, the autopsy report says.
Hill had a history of drug use, and his body was found near syringes and other drug paraphernalia, the report states. The autopsy concluded he died of an accidental meth overdose.
The man who went with Hill to search for ginseng was identified as Joshua David Morgan, 31, of Maryville. Morgan died by suicide on Oct. 1, according to an incident report from the Blount County Sheriff's Office. His obituary says he and Hill were best friends.
Stephanie Mallory is a mom, a hunter and Realtree’s PR Coordinator. She’s here to deliver an insider’s look at the outdoor business and give her opinion on all things outdoors—whether you asked for it or not.