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Rangers kill black bear in Smokies after it attacks 16-year-old girl in hammock

Rangers said the teen was sleeping when the bear attacked. They said the family had taken all proper precautions for food storage.

COSBY, Tenn. — Rangers shot and killed a black bear Friday after a 16-year-old girl was attacked while sleeping in a hammock in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

According to park officials, the girl was camping with her family at Backcountry Campsite 29 in the Cosby section of the park when the attack happened. The family was able to drive the bear away and called for help.

The incident happened about 12:30 a.m. Friday.

When rangers arrived, they provided medical care to the teen, who had multiple cuts on her body, including to her head.

The Tennessee Military Department and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency were alerted shortly before 7 a.m. Friday about the wounded teen.

A Knoxville-based Tennessee Army National Guard UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter arrived at the campsite about 8:45 a.m. A critical care paramedic rode a hoist down to the site, assessed the teen with rangers and then rode back up with her in the hoist to the chopper hovering overhead.

The entire hoisting operation took 14 minutes to complete, according to the National Guard.

The Blackhawk then flew her on to University of Tennessee Medical Center for treatment. She was in stable condition, according to park officials.

Two bears were spotted in the area following the attack. One larger male entered the campsite several times despite the rangers' attempts to scare it away. The family identified it as the bear that attacked the teen so rangers shot and killed it. Wildlife biologists confirmed that there was human blood on the euthanized bear.

“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 park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The safety of visitors is our No. 1 priority.”

The campsite, which is located 5.7 miles from the Maddron Bail Trailhead, will remain closed until further notice.

Officials said the Middle Tennessee family of five was on a two-night backpacking trip in the Smokies. Other family members were sleeping very near the hammock where the girl was sleeping. Rangers said all backpacks and food were properly stored on aerial food storage cables.  

When hiking in bear country, park officials recommend the following precautions for safety:

  • Hike in groups of three or more
  • Carry bear spray
  • Comply with all backcountry closures
  • Properly follow food storage regulations
  • Remain at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times. 

If you are 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.  

 You can get more safety tips here.