2015 Black Bear Attack Press Releases from Great Smoky Mountain National Park

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The following official press releases from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park are all in reference to a 16 year old camper who was attacked in Campsite 84 in the Hazel Creek Area of the park, the trapping and euthanization of a bear, and the DNA results from 2 bear.

Great Smoky Mountains News Release

Release Date: June 23, 2015

Contact: Dana Soehn, Dana_Soehn@nps.gov, 865-436-1207
Brent Everitt, Brent_Everitt@nps.gov, 865-436-1203

Park Reports Hazel Creek Bear DNA Results
 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials received DNA results from the bear attack occurring at backcountry campsite 84 where a 16-year old male from Ohio was seriously injured by a bear on June 6. Immediately following the report of the attack, rangers and wildlife biologists implemented an action plan that included clearing the Hazel Creek backcountry area of hikers and searching for bears using cameras, traps, and conducting foot patrols. Wildlife biologists and rangers also conducted a thorough investigation of the scene of the attack and collected forensic evidence, including bear hair and saliva from the victim's equipment, to be used for DNA analysis.

On the evening of June 7, wildlife biologists encountered and shot at a bear near campsite 84, but the bear ran off after the shots were fired and biologists were unable to confirm whether the bear had been struck. Efforts to track the bear were unsuccessful due to darkness and a severe thunderstorm with heavy rainfall that fell immediately following the shooting. On the morning of June 8, a bear was caught in a culvert trap set at campsite 84. Biologists euthanized the bear and collected a sample for DNA analysis.

Wildlife biologists continued to search daily for bears in the area. During the search, they located a rifle bullet from the site of the bear shooting on June 7. Examination of the bullet confirmed that a bear had been hit and a DNA sample was collected from bear hair on the bullet. The sample was also submitted for lab analysis.

Park officials have now received DNA analysis from the collected samples, marking the first time in the history of managing bear populations in the park where wildlife biologists have had access to a lab willing and capable of processing DNA samples in a timely enough manner to be of use in a bear attack case. Through DNA analysis of samples collected from the scene of the attack on June 6, the bear responsible for the attack has been determined to be a male.

The DNA analysis also confirms that the bear trapped at campsite 84 and the bear shot at campsite 84 are two different male bears. The DNA sample taken from the trapped bear does not match DNA from the attack bear. The DNA from the shot bear was insufficient to make a definitive positive or negative match with DNA collected from attack bear, but the DNA characteristics are quite similar. The genetics specialist conducting the analysis estimated at least a 65% DNA match between the shot bear and the bear responsible for the attack. While it is likely that the bear shot was the same involved in the attack, it cannot be confirmed without a better DNA sample.

"Due to the extreme seriousness of the bear attack and threat to human safety, we responded swiftly to secure the safety of hikers in the backcountry," said Superintendent Cassius Cash. "Though extremely rare and regrettable, we recognize that an uninvolved bear was euthanized through this process and we will be examining new procedures that may allow us to quickly use DNA analysis to correctly identify bears responsible for predatory attacks in the future."

Wildlife biologists believe that the bear that was shot is likely dead as no bear activity at campsite 84 has been observed since June 8 despite extensive search efforts. Out of an abundance of caution, park staff is continuing their search and investigation while the temporary closure remains in effect. Managers will assess later in the week whether it would be reasonably safe to end the closure at that time following a few more days of search efforts.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.


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Tue 6/9/2015 5:33 PM
To: Your Smokies: Chris Hibbard

This morning, we captured, tranquilized, and humanely euthanized a male bear with potassium chloride at Campsite 84. Based on our experience and training, the bear exhibited the behavior pattern we expected. It returned directly to the site, within feet of where Alexander's hammock was strung. Due to the seriousness of the attack, our staff acted swiftly and did not take any chances.

We have collected bear hair and blood samples from the night of the attack and also this bear. Samples have been sent to the lab for DNA analysis and we expect that report to come back within a couple of weeks.

The trails and campsites will remain closed. There is always a chance that we did not get the right bear and human safety is our number one concern. Our staff remains on scene to continuing monitoring the site for bear activity.

Dana Soehn
Great Smoky Mountains National Park



Great Smoky Mountains News Release

Release Date: June 7, 2015

Contact: Dana Soehn, Dana_Soehn@nps.gov, 865-436-1207

Brent Everitt, Brent_Everitt@nps.gov, 865-436-1203

Park Closes Several Trails and Backcountry Sites Due to Bear Incident

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials have closed several trails and backcountry campsites in the Hazel Creek section of the park due to a bear incident occurring at approximately 10:30 p.m. on June 6. A 16-year old male from Ohio was pulled from his hammock by a bear and injured at backcountry campsite 84 which is 4.5 miles from the Fontana Lake shoreline near Hazel Creek in NC. The father was able to drive the bear off from the area.

Immediately following the incident, the young man and his father hiked to the lakeshore where they were transported across the lake to Cable Cove boat dock by campers at backcountry campsite 86 who had a boat. Graham County Rescue EMS transported them to a landing zone where the injured party was flown by Mountain Area Medical Airlift (MAMA) to Mission Hospital in Asheville, NC at approximately 3:00 a.m. this morning.

The young man received multiple injuries including lacerations to the head. He remained conscious throughout the incident and is in stable condition at this time.

Park rangers and wildlife biologists are responding to the backcountry campsite area to investigate the scene and to clear the area of other campers. Hazel Creek Trail, Jenkins Ridge Trail, Bone Valley Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail and backcountry campsites 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, and 88 are closed until further notice. Derrick Knob shelter along the Appalachian Trail has also been closed to camping until officials can determine whether recent bear activity at the shelter may also be related to 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 Superintendent Cassius Cash. "The safety of our visitors is our number one priority."

The father and son were on a multi-day backpacking trip in the Smokies. Both campers were sleeping in hammocks approximately 10 feet apart and had all equipment, food, and packs properly stored on aerial food storage cables.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident, please call 865-436-1230.

Black Bear information for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Camping Conditions, Bear Warnings and Bear Closures in the GSMNP

Hiking Conditions, Bear Warnings and Bear Closures on GSMNP Trails

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Official Statements

Recent Bear attacks in Great Smoky Mountains National Park


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