A 16 year-old boy was hospitalized in Asheville, North Carolina after a bear attack in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The attack occurred in the Hazel Creek section of the park at backcountry campsite 84 about 4.5 miles from the shoreline of Lake Fontana on the North Carolina side of the park.
According to National Park Service officials, the boy was camping with his father with food and equipment properly stored when he was pulled from his hammock by a black bear at approximately 10:30 p.m.
“It sounds like the son and father were doing the right things,” park spokesperson Dana Soehn told WBIR. “[It was] just a very rare and unusual situation.”
After the initial attack, the boy’s father was able to drive the bear from the campsite and administer first aid to his son. The two then hiked to the shore of Lake Fontana where they were transported by boat to meet the Graham County Rescue EMS before the boy was airlifted to Mission Health in Asheville. He arrived at the hospital at approximately 3 a.m. and remained conscious and in stable condition throughout treatment.
Park officials have closed several trails and other back country campsites near the site of the attack. These include Hazel Creek Trail, Jenkins Ridge Trail, Bone Valley Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail, and backcountry campsites 82, 83, 84, 85, 86 and 88.
Park rangers and wildlife biologist were dispatched to the scene of the attack to clear the area of other campers and investigate the circumstances of the attack.
“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. “The safety of our visitors is our No. 1 priority.”