Bear euthanized following unprovoked attack
A bear has been euthanized and a backcountry site closed in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park after a 16-year-old girl was attacked and injured while sleeping in her hammock near her family around 12:30 a.m. Friday, June 18.
The teen, from middle Tennessee, was sleeping near the remaining members of her family of five at Backcountry Campsite 29, located 5.7 miles from the Maddron Bald Trailhead in the Cosby area of the park. They were on a two-night backpacking trip in the Smokies and had properly stored their backpacks and food on aerial food storage cables. Nevertheless, she received multiple injuries, including lacerations to the head, but remained conscious throughout the incident and is currently in stable condition.
“While serious incidents with bears are rare, we remind visitors to remain vigilant while in the backcountry and to follow all precautions while hiking in bear country,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The safety of visitors is our number one priority.”
The family was able to drive the bear away immediately after the attack and quickly notified the park’s emergency communications center. Rangers responded and provided on-site medical care overnight, and the Tennessee Army National Guard transported the teenager to the University of Tennessee Medical Center at approximately 9 a.m.
Two bears were spotted in the area following the attack. One larger, male bear entered the campsite while rangers were present and repeatedly approached the area in spite of attempts to scare it from the site. Family members identified the bear as the one responsible for the attack, and rangers shot and killed it. Forensic testing confirmed human blood on the euthanized bear. The campsite will remain closed until further notice.
This is the second instance of a bear attacking a human reported this spring in Western North Carolina, the other being a May incident in which a Henderson County woman sustained minor injuries during a bear incident involving her unleashed dogs. Bear activity in various areas of the Smokies and nearby national forest land has caused temporary closures of some trails and campsites. Most recently, the Blue Ridge Parkway today announced a weeklong halt on tents and soft-sided campers at Mount Pisgah Campground.
Hikers should take precautions while out in bear country, including hiking in groups of three or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly storing food and remaining a safe viewing distance from bears at all times. If attacked by a bear, rangers recommend fighting back with any object available.
Learn more about co-existing with bears at www.bearwise.org.
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Coming through the park from Tn to Nc several cars pulled over. Several people were out of the cars just a few feet away from a bear. Looked to be (guess) 300 lbs. Traffic had to abruptly stop as some were partially in road way on the curve.