According to a press release, a bear attack occurred near the Folk Art Center in Asheville, North Carolina earlier this week.
This has prompted area trail closures and food prohibitions on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
On Sept. 29, a couple was treated for injuries and released after a bear attack in the parking area of the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Bear attack near the Blue Ridge Parkway
According to the release, the couple was having a picnic on a grassy hill near the Folk Art Center. Their dog alerted them about a bear.
The unleashed dog ran towards the bear while barking loudly. Likely aggravated by the dog, the bear acted defensively toward the dog and the couple.
Over the next several minutes, there were repeated attacks by the bear while the couple retreated with their dog to their vehicle.
The couple drove to Mission Hospital, where they were both treated for their injuries and released.
Due to the aggressive nature of this attack, temporary closures are in place on all trails in the area. Outdoor food also is currently prohibited.
Where are the temporary closures near the Blue Ridge Parkway?
Due to the incident, there are some temporary closures and restrictions in effect in the area:
- A closure at the Mountains to Sea Trail from the intersection with the Visitor Center Loop Trail, near milepost 384 to Riceville Rd. Bridge at milepost 382
- Closure at the Folk Art Center Nature Loop Trail and all trails accessed off of Bull Mountain Road
- No picnicking between the Asheville Visitor Center and adjacent parking areas near milepost 384 to the Haw Creek Overlook near milepost 380
Fall is a critical feeding period for bears
Visitors should remember that the fall period is a critical feeding period for bears before they enter winter ‘hibernation’.
But also remember, bears in the Smoky Mountains do not fully hibernate, but enter long periods of sleep. So, it is possible to spot a bear throughout the winter months as well.
Park visitors should take necessary precautions and be BearWise while in bear country. This includes properly following food storage regulations, keeping pets leashed and remaining at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times.
If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available. Remember that bears may view you and your pets as prey.
Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, and can cause injuries or death.
Park rangers and wildlife biologists, in coordination with NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC), are attempting to capture the bear.
They are conducting foot patrols of the immediate area.
What happened to the black bear?
A thorough investigation of the scene was conducted and forensic evidence was collected to be used for DNA analysis.
If the offending bear is captured and identified, officials will humanely euthanize the animal, per park and NCWRC protocol.
“It is not at all uncommon for a bear to bluff charge, pop their jaws, huff, stomp their feet etc. when they encounter a dog, on or off leash,” officials said on the Blue Ridge Parkway social media page.
“However, this attack was unusual in that the bear was uncharacteristically aggressive … This is not typical or characteristic defensive bear behavior and indicates a more predatory response. This presents an intolerable level of risk in a high-use, public area.”
“The decision to euthanize an animal of any kind in the park is never made lightly, and we are committed to identifying the correct bear through the use of DNA samples collected on-site at the time of the incident,” the statement continued.
Practicing bear safety in the Smoky Mountains
Black bear sightings are common around the Smoky Mountains. Therefore, it is important to know what to do if you see one.
Never approach a bear, never offer food for the bear and always keep your distance.
For more information about bear safety, visit the NPS website.
Have you seen a black bear in the Smoky Mountains? Let us know in the comments.