KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A bear that attacked a sleeping teen in Great Smoky Mountains National Park was shot and killed after circled the site of the attack for hours before charging at park rangers who were attempting to scare it away. A new report from the U.S. Department of Interior is shedding new light on the June 18 attack.
Backcountry Campsite 29in the Cosby section of the park, located about six miles from the Maddron Bald Trailhead, was closed after a 16-year-old girl was attacked and injured by a bear while sleeping near her family in a hammock, sustaining multiple injuries including lacerations to the head.
According to the U.S. Interior report, rangers were alerted by park dispatch about the attack at approximately 12:28 a.m. on June 18. Dispatch conveyed how to control the bleeding and provide first aid while rangers drove up Maddron Bald Trail to the campsite.
After running out of drivable roadway, rangers hiked the remaining length to the campsite. They arrived just before 5 a.m. Rangers had planned to meet the family halfway on the trail to get away from the bear but dispatch advised them that the injured party did not wish to move from the campsite.
As one of the rangers began to administer care to the victim, a bear was located about 30 yards from the wood line from the campsite. Another ranger threw rocks and yelled at the bear to scare it away with no effect. A helicopter extraction by the Tennessee Air National Guard and other additional assistance was requested at 5:52 a.m. due to the severity of the injuries.
The bear continued to circle the campsite, moving to several different locations during that time. Rangers were authorized to euthanize the bear at approximately 6:12 a.m. The bear continued to be unfazed by rock-throwing and yelling.
One ranger moved down an embankment closer to the bear to try and hit it with a rock. The bear then charged at the ranger at a quick rate of speed. Another ranger fired once with a shotgun, striking the bear as it was charging. The bear was then fatally shot a second time.
Rangers supplied the family with clothing and blankets since they had used their own articles of clothing as bandages for the victim.
A UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter from Detachment 1, Company C, 1-171st Aviation Regiment based in Knoxville assembled in under an hour and launched to the incident site, arriving at the campsite at 8:45 a.m.
The victim was airlifted to UT Medical Center in Knoxville by the Tennessee Air National Guard around 9 a.m. The family was transported back to their vehicles and driven to the hospital by park staff.
While onboard, the aircrew continued medical aid to the patient during the 20-minute flight to the hospital. The incident was the third search-and-rescue mission by the Tennessee National Guard in 2021.