Trails, campsites and a shelter in the Hazel Creek area reopened today, after being closed since the bear attack nearly a month ago.
Officials with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park announced Thursday, July 2, 2015, that Hazel Creek Trail, Jenkins Ridge Trail, Bone Valley Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail, Derrick Knob Shelter, and backcountry campsites 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, and 88 are open.
A bear attacked and injured a 16-year-old boy while he slept in a hammock at backcountry campsite 84 on the evening of June 6.
Wildlife biologists shot one bear, which ran away, and euthanized another bear at the campsite in the days following the bear attack. However, a DNA comparison of those bears to samples taken from the victim’s equipment found the euthanized bear was not responsible for the attack and the bear shot was only a 65 percent match.
Park rangers and wildlife biologists have monitored the area daily using traps and cameras. Bear activity was detected at two other trap sites within the Hazel Creek area and biologists were able to collect hair samples for DNA analysis. The DNA analysis completed this week determined that neither of these bears were associated with the bear attack.
“Based on this information, I feel it is reasonably safe to end the closure at this time,” said Superintendent Cassius Cash. “Our staff has demonstrated extraordinary dedication and determination over the last several weeks to help ensure hiker safety in the Hazel Creek backcountry.”
Bear activity warning signs will be posted at campsites to remind hikers to exercise caution while hiking in the area and follow all food storage regulations.
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, please call 865-436-1230.
Photo: Hazel Creek Campsite 84, by Brian Stansberry (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons