Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials say a teenager camping with her family in the Cosby area of the American park was attacked by a bear just after midnight Friday morning. The 16-year-old was reportedly sleeping in a hammock near her family's tent at Backcountry Campsite 29 when the bear attacked.

The girl is listed in "stable condition" at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in nearby Knoxville, Tennessee. Local news reports say she suffered "multiple injuries," including lacerations to her head and hands. Witnesses said the victim remained conscious throughout the attack, and during her hours-long wait to be rescued from the backcountry site.

Bear responsible for attack killed

Two bears were spotted near the scene of the attack hours later, one of those bears was a large male who behaved aggressively and would not leave the area despite attempts to drive it away. Family members of the victim late identified that bear as the one responsible for the attack. Rangers then shot and killed the bear. Officials said forensic testing on the bear found traces of human blood, confirming it was indeed the right animal.

The family was on the first night of a two-night camping trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Family members say they took recommended precautions and all food and backpacks had been stored properly.

National Guard crew rescues victim

Backcountry Campsite 29 is several miles from any civilisation or emergency medical personnel. It would be more than 8 hours before a Tennessee National Guard medical flight crew was able to reach the teen and hoist her to safety. The crew was sent to perform an "emergency air evacuation mission" after officials with the Tennessee Military Department and Tennessee Emergency Management Agency received the report of the injured camper around 7 a.m.


According to the Tennessee National Guard a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter was dispatched from Knoxville, which arrived at the campsite around 8:45 a.m. The helicopter was unable to land at the site due to rough terrain, so a hoisting operation began almost immediately to extract the victim. That operation took about 15 minutes, and medical crews began medical treatment during the 20-minute flight to UTMC.

The flight crew was made up of four Tennessee National Guard members, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Andrew Redley, pilot and mission commander; Capt. Philip Webster, pilot; Sgt. Tim Allen, crew chief; and Sgt. 1st Class Tracy Banta, critical care flight paramedic.

NPS officials warn campers

Park officials warn campers to understand that when visiting the GSMNP they are in bear country. Always take the proper precautions. Educate yourself on bear behaviour and what to do if you encounter a bear. Bear sightings are high at this time of year because the primary food source of the bears, berries, are not yet ripe and they are roaming in search of other food sources. A 13-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail A 13-mile from mile 451 to mile 464, was recently closed to camping due to reports of aggressive bear behaviour.

Hiking is still permitted on that section of the trail, but hikers are warned to be alert.

To learn more about bears and stay up to date on NPS warnings, along with campsite and trail closures visit the National Park Service website,