A 16-year-old girl was attacked by a bear in the Great Smoky Mountains early Friday, prompting the National Park Service to close a back country section to visitors.
The attack happened at 12:30 a.m., as the teen was sleeping in a hammock in the the Crosby section of the park, officials said. Her family was “sleeping in close proximity” at the time, according to a news release.
Investigators have not released the identity of the teen, but said she is from Middle Tennessee.
“The family was able to drive the bear off from the area immediately after the attack and quickly notified the park’s emergency communications center,” the National Park Service said.
“The young woman received multiple injuries including lacerations to the head. She remained conscious throughout the incident and is in stable condition at this time.”
She was flown by National Guard helicopter to the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville., officials said.
Two bears were seen later in the morning near the camp site, officials said.
“One larger, male bear entered the campsite while the rangers were present and repeatedly approached the area in spite of attempts to scare it from the site,” officials said.
“The bear was identified by the family as being the one responsible for the attack and rangers shot and killed it. Through forensic testing, wildlife biologists were able to confirm human blood on the euthanized bear.”
The family of five was on a “two-night backpacking trip” in the park when the attack occurred, the park said. The rest of the family was asleep when the attack began and officials did not report they suffered injuries while trying to frighten the bear away.
Food in the family’s camp site was properly stored and was out of reach of bears, officials said.
The Backcountry Campsite 29 is now closed due the attack, officials said. The area is just under 6 miles from the Maddron Bald Trailhead, officials said.
“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,” Superintendent Cassius Cash said in a news release.
“The safety of visitors is our number one priority.”
The attack comes at a time when the nearby Appalachian Trail has closed multiple camp sites due to aggressive bear activity, including bears stealing backpacks, McClachy News reports. Hiking is still allowed on the trail, but camp sites are closed between mile markers 451 through 464, and mile markers 245 and 253, it was reported.
Blue Ridge Parkway officials announced Friday that “tents and soft-sided campers are temporarily prohibited at Mount Pisgah Campground” due to “increasing bear activity in recent days.” The ban will run through June 24, officials said.