A teenage girl sleeping in a hammock was attacked by a black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park last Friday.
The young woman, who received multiple injuries, including lacerations on her head, remained conscious throughout the incident, National Park Service (NPS) officials told reporters, per the Charlotte Observer.
“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,” Great Smoky Mountains National Park Superintendent Cassius Cash told WBIR 10 News. “The safety of visitors is our number one priority.”
A Harrowing Incident
The young woman and her family were on a two-night backpacking trip in the park. Other family members were sleeping near her hammock, and park rangers said the family’s backpacks and food were properly stored on aerial food storage cables.
The bear attacked the girl around 12:30 a.m. last Friday. Fortunately, her family was able to drive the bear away and call for help.
When rangers arrived at the campsite, they provided medical care for the injured girl. She was later flown by National Guard helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville. At last report, she is in stable condition.
Two bears were spotted in the area following the attack. “One larger, male bear entered the campsite while the rangers were present and repeatedly approached the area in spite of attempts to scare it from the site,” NPS officials told the Charlotte Observer.
“The bear was identified by the family as being the one responsible for the attack and rangers shot and killed it,” the article continues. “Through forensic testing, wildlife biologists were able to confirm human blood on the euthanized bear.”
Stay Safe Around Black Bears
Of the three bear species in North America, black bears are the most abundant and widely distributed. “Despite their name, black bears can be black, cinnamon, blonde, blue/gray, or even white,” the NPS explains.
Black bears, which live between 15 and 25 years, range from 100 pounds to 600 pounds depending on their age, sex, and the season. They are about 3 feet tall at the shoulder, but when standing upright, they are between 5 and 7 feet tall.
When hiking in bear country, the NPS recommends hikers travel in groups of three or more, carry bear spray, properly follow food storage regulations, and always remain at a safe distance from bears. If you are attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available. And remember: Do not try to run away or play dead.
More information about black bears, how to camp and hike safely in bear country, and more tips on what to do if a black bear is sighted are found here.
Increased Bear Activity
Black bears are especially active this time of year.
The U.S. Forest Service recently warned visitors to the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness in the Nantahala National Forest to avoid bears after recent reports of increased bear encounters in the area. Due to aggressive bear activity and evidence of bears entering campsites and taking food, the Forest Service also closed campsites along the Appalachian Trail.
Blue Ridge Parkway officials recently announced that “tents and soft-sided campers are temporarily prohibited at Mount Pisgah Campground” due to “increasing bear activity in recent days.” The ban will run through June 24, officials said.