The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Bear attacks girl in Smokies backcountry campground; responding rangers shoot and kill aggressive bear

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Girl in stable condition following attack; family followed all bear-safety protocols.

A bear attacked and injured a teenage girl as she slept in a hammock in a backcountry campground in the Cosby area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The 16-year-old Middle Tennessee girl is in stable condition with multiple injuries following the attack at 12:30 a.m. Friday at backcountry site No. 29, according to a National Park Service release. 

Her family was able to drive off the bear after the attack and contacted park emergency services; the girl was evacuated from the park by a Tennessee Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to UT Medical Center at about 9 a.m. Friday. Hellbender Press has not pursued identification of the girl because she is a minor.

As responding rangers were at the campsite providing medical care in the wee hours of the morning, two bears approached and persisted in efforts to enter the campsite despite attempts to scare the bears away. Family members identified a particularly aggressive large, male bear as the one who attacked the girl, and rangers shot and killed the animal.

Forensic tests detected human blood on the dead bear.

Park officials said the campsite, along the Maddron Bald Trail on Otter Creek, will remain closed indefinitely.

The party of five was on a two-day camping trip, and the hammock was hanging near the rest of the family.

The group stored their food and packs on cables, per strict national park bear rules, according to the park service.

“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 Great Smoky Mountains Superintendent Cassius Cash in a press release. “The safety of visitors is our No. 1 priority.”

Here are some guidelines for bear safety in the Southern Appalachians and information on bears in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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