A 49-year-old man who was hiking along the Appalachian Trail has been reportedly bitten by a black bear over night. The man was asleep when the black bear bit him through his tent. The victim sustained a leg injury before he was able to scare the black bear away and call out to surrounding hikers and backpackers for help.
The injured man and other hikers near the area retreated from the open walking trail and hid in the back country shelter for the rest of the night. There are more than 250 garage-size shelters “roughly a day’s hike apart” along the length of the Appalachian Trail, according to CNN, and the man that had an encounter with the black bear was close by to one when it happened.
Park Ranges were able to get to the man on Wednesday morning and removed him from the Appalachian Trail by horseback. He was then transported by Rural Metro to Blount Memorial Hospital. The hiker had some swelling and pain to his lower leg where the black bear allegedly bit him but is in a stable condition, according to WBIR.
The man was attempting to hike-thru, meaning hike the entire Appalachian Trail in one go, when he had the encounter with the black bear.
According to park spokeswoman, Dana Soehn, the 49-year-old had pitched his tent near the Spence Field Shelter on Tuesday night. The man woke up when the animal bit him and was able to scare, what is presumed to be, the black bear away before he or any hikers along the Appalachian Trail could see the animal.
Rangers in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are now investigating the hiker’s report of the black bear bite and have returned to the man’s tent site along the Appalachian Trail.
Soehn said an animal that could be a black bear later returned to the same area near the Spence Field Shelter and tore through the same tent — which had been vacated by the injured man at this stage— and a second nearby tent, that was also vacant, according to Knoxville News Sentinel. Again, the animal was not seen.
The Spence Field Shelter has since been closed and a wildlife technician is remaining onsite to see if a black bear returns to the area again, as of today they have not spotted anything yet Soehn said.
This is not the first time that a black bear has caused injury or death along the Appalachian Trail. According to Online Athens, 86 percent of all recorded deaths that have happened along the Appalachian Trail are because of bears and their hunt for food.
Hikers are warned of the dangers along the 2,181 mile Appalachian Trail and are told they will see birds, chipmunks, squirrels, spiders, deer, wild turkeys, wild pigs, bears, and rattlesnakes.
The Appalachian Trail is a treacherous hike and spans 14 states, 2,189 miles, tens of thousands of feet of elevation change, and 5 million steps according to Morris Town Green.
The full Appalachian Trail hike can take anywhere from 46 days, the fastest time ever recorded, or 5-6 months. On average, 2,000 to 3,000 people attempt to hike the whole trail in one go each year but only 25 percent of people are successful in completing the whole Appalachian Trail. Most people opt for doing just parts of the Appalachian Trail.
More people have been attempting long wilderness hikes since the recent popular success of books that have been made into movies including Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson and Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. The movies have thrown American hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, into the spotlight.
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