Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bear Stalked Boy in Smokies

Preliminary results from the necropsy of the bear that attacked the boy in the Smoky Mountains last week were released yesterday. Although preliminary, the results confirmed that the bear that attacked the eight-year-old Florida boy did not have rabies.

Additionally, park officials said that neither the boy, nor his family, did anything to provoke the attack. None of the family members were carrying any food with them, however, the father said that they had fried chicken about an hour before the attack and the smell of the meal may have been in their clothes.

Officials believe the attack was predatory, with the bear targeting the smallest member of the family. One park official said that the bear "stalked the boy as prey".

Park officials are also 100% sure now that they’ve killed the right bear. Proof of this was confirmed when parts of a tennis shoe were found in the stomach of the 86-pound bear. The shoe matched the one that the boy's father lost while fighting the bear off of his son.

Interestingly, the author of “Your Smokies” blog reported that another bear acted aggressively towards him as he was returning from his hike on the Lead Cove Trail in Cades Cove. This happened just one day after the attack on the Florida boy.

The question or suggestion has been floated on a couple of forums and blogs, so I’ll ask it here again: is the extreme drought in the Smokies causing food shortages for bears which is resulting in them acting more aggressively? If this is the case, visitors to the Smokies, especially hikers and campers, should take special precaution while in the area.

To put this in perspective, however, this was only the eighth bear attack in the Smoky Mountains in the last 10 years. Only one of those attacks resulted in a fatality. With roughly 1,600 black bears in the park and more than 9 million visitors each year, your chances of being attacked are extremely slim.

Jeff
HikingintheSmokys.com

3 comments:

Smokies Hiker said...

The drought has nothing to do with the bear behavior issues at all.

I have seen more bear than ever before in the park and even though we have had the worst drought in more than 100 years last year and officials were worried about food stocks, there was a bumper crop of food and thus a bumper crop of bear this year.

The surveys I have been doing in the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains national park show bear well feed and their scat indicate a very varied diet.

Further examination of foods crops show plenty of food such as blackberries and blueberries fully ripe and rotting uneaten as well as plenty of other berries, and vine, bush and tree born fruit, grasses and fobs.

Most bear problems occur in areas heavily frequented by humans. The bear in these areas lose there fear of man - the bears best defense against its own demise. The Roaring Fork section of the Great Smoky Mountains national park is notorious for finding black bear especially in the fall where bear jams block traffic and idiots with cell phone cameras chase them uphill.

The case where a bear stalked me is still unanswerable. It is a very quiet trail and usually sees only a handful of people a day except at peak season and at the Bote Mountain junction above there was tons of food as well as midway down the trail. I had no smell of food on me and I was making a lot of noise.

My gut tells me it was curiosity and stupidity on the bear's part not understanding that his path and mine were destined for an intersection. Acting appropriately as I did made the bear back down and leave which ultimately saved the bear - and me.

Chris Hibbard
Your Smokies News

Smoky Mountain Hiker said...

Chris - Excellent post - thanks for the information.

Do you work for the park or are you a biologist by any chance?

Jeff

Smokies Hiker said...

That was my training but I am privately funded so I don’t have any censorship or have to bend to economic or political pressure.