Several Smokies Trails Closed After Bear Attacked Teen
USAToday.com – Officials in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park closed several trails and backcountry campsites Sunday after a bear encounter sent a teenager to the hospital.
A 16-year-old boy from Ohio was hurt Saturday night when a bear pulled him from his hammock around 10:30 p.m., park officials said.
Park officials said the father and son were on a backpacking trip in the Smokies. Both were sleeping in hammocks about 10 feet apart and they properly stored their packs, equipment, and food with aerial storage cables.
“It sounds like the son and father were doing the right things,” park spokeswoman Dana Soehn said. “[It was] just a very rare and unusual situation.”
The teen’s father drove the bear away. The two then hiked to the shore of the lake. Some campers had a boat and transported the two across the lake to Cable Cove boat dock where Graham County (N.C.) Rescue EMS met them. The father and son were then airlifted to Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina around 3 a.m.
Park officials said the teenager received several injuries, including cuts to the head. He never lost consciousness and was in stable condition at last check.
This is the ninth bear incident this year, according to Soehn.
“Historically May and June are very difficult times for bears in the Smokies,” she said. “The natural summer foods have not come in yet, so we’re waiting for berries to ripen. And historically, after the summer foods come in, we see far less aggressive bear behavior.”
Following the incident, park officials closed several of the trails and backcountry campsites. They also closed Derrick Knob shelter along the Appalachian Trail until rangers can determine if recent bear activity at the shelter may involve the same bear.
“While incidents with bears are rare, we ask park visitors to take necessary precautions while hiking in bear country and comply with all backcountry closures,” said park superintendent Cassius Cash in a press release. “The safety of our visitors is our number one priority.”