“Smokies shelter closed after bear bites Appalachian Trail thru-hiker”
“GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK – A bear bit a sleeping Appalachian Trail thru-hiker Tuesday night in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Bradley Veeder, 49, was sleeping in his tent near Spence Field Backcountry Shelter when the bear bit him in the lower leg through the tent, according to park spokesperson Dana Soehn.
The victim was able to immediately scare the bear away.
The injured hiker and other nearby campers then gathered in the back country shelter for the rest of the night.
Soehn told 10News the bear returned at some point and tore through two vacant tents, including the one belonging to the injured hiker.
A Park Wildlife Technician and a Park Ranger responded to the scene early Wednesday morning. They transported the injured hiker by horse. The hiker had some swelling and pain in the lower leg.
Rural Metro then took Veeder to Blount Memorial Hospital. Officials confirmed to 10News on Thursday morning that Veeder had been treated and released.
The Spence Field Backcountry is now closed and the wildlife technician is remaining on site to see if the bear returns again, Soehn said.
Park officials are urging everyone to be cautious while hiking, camping, and picnicking to protect bears and themselves. A park release noted black bears in the park are wild and unpredictable. And although attacks on humans are rare, it does sometimes happen.
Officials are also reminding hikers that bears should never be fed and all food waste needs to be properly disposed to discourage bears from approaching humans.
Appalachian Bear Rescue curators told 10News the bears coming out of their dens this season are underweight because of a bad acorn crop last year.
ABR curator Coy Blair said the bears are hungry but there aren’t many natural food sources available right now. The rescue said campers need to be sure to secure all possible food sources, including garbage.
“They think they’re trying to help them since there’s no food available, but honestly, it’s the worst case scenario,” said curator Coy Blair, of feeding the wild animals. “You’re killing that bear.”
Blair also said people living near the park should take down their bird feeders because bears will try to eat the birdseed.
He said the bear activity should wind down in the next few months when the berry crop ripens.”