Search may be futile for killer black bear


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) – A popular mountaintop campground remained closed Saturday as officials searched for signs of the black bear that killed a 6-year-old girl near a swimming hole.

Officers detected some “bear activity” around the traps and snares that were rigged Friday in the remote Cherokee National Forest Chilhowee Recreation Area, said Sharon Moore, a U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman.

If any bears are trapped, a comparison with hairs shed during the attack will identify the responsible animal, Moore said.

Authorities have closed all roads and trails leading into the recreation area.

The girl’s 2-year-old brother was in fair condition but their mother remained in critical condition, hospital officials said Saturday.

Doctors said they expected both to recover.

The bear attacked Elora Petrasek on Thursday afternoon as she and her family were leaving a waterfall pool on a rugged, 1,800-foot-high mountaintop, about 10 miles from the nearest highway.

The family from Clyde, Ohio, was among several groups of visitors leaving a waterfall when the children reported seeing a bear on the trail.

Adults were trying to drive the 350- to 400-pound bear off the trail when it attacked, biting the 2-year-old Luke Cenkus on his head and puncturing his skull, officials said.

His mother, Susan Cenkus, 45, tried to fend off the bear with rocks and sticks but the bear attacked her, dragging her yards off the trail.

Her daughter apparently ran away and almost an hour passed before rescuer Danny Stinnett found her body about 100 yards off the trail with the bear. He said he shot twice at the bear with a pistol before it ran away.

Cenkus and her children stopped at the forest recreation area Thursday while they were in the area to visit her eldest son, a music student at Lee University in Cleveland, near Chattanooga.