Autopsy: Man overdosed on meth in Great Smoky Mountains before bear scavenged his remains

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SEVIERVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The autopsy report from the Knox County Regional Forensic Center revealed Monday that William Lee Hill Jr., 30, died of an “accidental methamphetamine intoxication” in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in September, prior to his remains being scavenged by a bear. 

Hill, from Louisville, Tenn., was found off-trail in the park on Sunday, Sept. 9, 2018, off Rich Mountain Road two miles north of Cades Cove. At the time of discovering his body, park officials found a bear feeding off his body.

Without knowing the exact cause of death, park officials and wildlife professionals made the decision to euthanize the bear, which occurred a few days later after a search. 

According to the report released Monday, “An autopsy revealed extensive postmortem animal predation, but no findings of antemortem/perimortem trauma (i.e. Mr. Hill was not attacked by a bear).”

GSMNP has an estimated 1,500 bears roaming its terrain. 

“Very few bears exhibit aggressive behavior towards humans,” park officials said Monday. “Wildlife biologists and park rangers work hard to prevent bears from becoming food-conditioned or habituated to high-use areas. Out of an abundance of caution for the park’s 11 million park visitors, park staff implement aversive-conditioning techniques and, on rare occasions, euthanize individual bears that pose a threat to visitor safety.”

In September, park officials were notified that Hill and a friend came to the park to look for ginseng.

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