A picnicking couple were repeatedly attacked by a bear on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina, earlier this week. The couple drove themselves to a nearby hospital after the attack, where they were treated and released.
“Due to the bold and aggressive nature of this attack, temporary closures are in place on all trails in the area, and outdoor food is currently prohibited,” the National Park Service reports.
A Startling Encounter
“The unleashed dog ran towards the bear while barking loudly. Likely aggravated by the dog, the bear acted defensively toward the dog and the couple,” the National Park Service reports. “Over the next several minutes, there were repeated attacks by the bear while the couple retreated with their dog to the safety of their vehicle.”
The couple drove to Mission Hospital in Asheville where they were both treated for their injuries and released. Leesa Brandon, parkway spokesperson, told the Asheville Citizen Times the people suffered lacerations and scratches.
It must be pointed out that while dogs are allowed in the Blue Ridge Parkway, they must be on a leash that is shorter than six feet long and they must be under the owner’s control. Owners who do not leash their dogs face a possible fine. Information about whether or not the picnicking couple was fined for their dog being unleashed is not available.
The Attack’s Consequences
The National Park Service explains that an investigation of the scene was conducted and that forensic evidence was collected to be used for DNA analysis.
“Park rangers and wildlife biologists, in coordination with NC Wildlife Resources Commission, are attempting to capture the bear,” the National Park Service explains. “If the offending bear is captured and positively identified, officials will humanely euthanize the animal.”
Due to the nature of the bear’s attack, there are now road closures and restrictions in effect.
The Mountains to Sea Trail is now closed from the intersection with the Visitor Center Loop Trail near parkway milepost 384 to Riceville Rd. bridge at milepost 382. The Folk Art Center Nature Loop Trail and all trails accessed off of Bull Mountain Road near Asheville are also closed.
Furthermore, as would be expected, picnicking is now prohibited between the Asheville Visitor Center and adjacent parking areas near parkway milepost 384 to the Haw Creek Overlook near milepost 380.
Be Bear Aware
This is a busy time along the parkway as visitors arrive to admire fall colors. However, the U.S. Forest Service also reminds visitors that fall is a critical feeding period for bears as they prepare to hibernate.
The Forest Service always reminds everyone to “Be bear aware” when outdoors near wildlife. Here are some tips for “Being bear aware.”
When in bear country, visitors should not store food in tents. Instead, food — as well as scented items like toothpaste — should be properly stored in a bear-proof container. In addition to never leaving food unattended, visitors should clean up food or garbage around the campsite.
If a bear approaches, the Forest Service explains that you should move away slowly — but do not run. It also is helpful to make loud noises, such as shouting or banging pans together, to try to scare the bear away.
“If you are attacked by a black bear, try to fight back using any object available,” the Forest Service explains. “Act aggressively and intimidate the bear by yelling and waving your arms. Playing dead is not appropriate.”
You can find more safety tips while in bear country here.
If you encounter a bear while on the Blue Ridge Parkway, call (828) 298-2491 or stop at the nearest Visitor Center to report it.
The Blue Ridge Parkway
The parkway is a road trip lover’s dream. Along the way, travelers can find numerous waterfalls, hiking trails, mountains, lakes, rivers, tunnels, and overlooks. And, of course, small towns, campgrounds, cabins, bed and breakfasts, and hotels and motels.
If you’d like to visit the Blue Ridge Parkway, be sure to read these articles for planning tips.