Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials closed Backcountry Campsite 29 in the Cosby section of the park due to a bear incident occurring at approximately 12:30 a.m. on Friday, June 18. A 16-year-old female from middle Tennessee was attacked and injured by a bear while sleeping near her family in a hammock at the backcountry campsite. The campsite is located 5.7 miles from the Maddron Bald Trailhead. The young woman was transported to the University of Tennessee Medical Center by the Tennessee Army National Guard at approximately 9 a.m.
The family was able to drive the bear off from the area immediately after the attack and quickly notified the park’s emergency communications center. Park rangers responded to the site and provided on-site medical care overnight. The young woman received multiple injuries including lacerations to the head. She remained conscious throughout the incident and is in stable condition at this time.
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. The bear was identified by the family as being the one responsible for the attack and rangers shot and killed it. Through forensic testing, wildlife biologists were able to confirm human blood on the euthanized bear. The campsite will remain closed until further notice.
“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 of five was on a two-night backpacking trip in the Smokies. Other family members were sleeping in close proximity to the young woman’s hammock when the attack occurred. All backpacks and food were properly stored on aerial food storage cables.
Hikers are reminded to take necessary precautions while in bear country including hiking in groups of three or more, carrying bear spray, complying with all backcountry closures, properly following food storage regulations, and remaining at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times. If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that the bear may view you as prey. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death.
For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at https://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.
– National Park Service release