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Bear attacks sleeping teenage girl, closing GSMNP backcountry campsite

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FILE IMAGE -{ } A black bear walks thought an neighborhood in Asheville, North Carolina. (Photo credit: Kelsay Hart)

A backcountry campsite in Tennessee is closed after wildlife officials say a bear attacked a teenage girl while she slept.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials say it happened at Backcountry Campsite 29 in the Cosby section of the park at around 12:30 a.m. Friday.

Officials say the 16-year-old girl was sleeping in a hammock near her family when she was attacked. She was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center by the Tennessee Army National Guard around 9 a.m.

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Park officials said the victim suffered multiple injuries, including lacerations to the head, but remained conscious throughout the incident. Her condition was described as "stable" at this time.

Two bears were seen in the area after the attack, officials say, including one larger male that repeatedly tried to enter the area despite attempts to scare it off.

Park officials said family members identified the bear as responsible for the attack, and rangers shot and killed it. Wildlife biologists were able to confirm the presence of human blood on the euthanized bear through forensic testing.

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The family had been on a two-night backpacking trip in the Smokies when the incident occurred. Officials say other family members were sleeping close to the girl's hammock when the attack happened, and all backpacks and food had been properly stored.

"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."

Officials remind hikers to take necessary precautions while in bear country:

  • Hike in groups of three or more
  • Carry bear spray
  • Comply with all backcountry closures
  • Properly follow food storage regulations
  • Remain at a safe viewing distance from bears at all times

'AGGRESSIVE' BEAR BEHAVIOR CLOSES SEVERAL APPALACHIAN TRAIL CAMPING SITES, SHELTERS

If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available, and remember that the bear may view you as prey. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, causing injuries or death.

For more information on what to do if you encounter a bear while hiking, please visit the park website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/naturescience/black-bears.htm. To report a bear incident, call 865-436-1230.

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