9:52 AM PDT, October 2, 2021
The Blue Ridge Parkway Facebook page announced that a couple and their dog were treated for injuries following a bear attack in the parking area of the Folk Art Center on the scenic highway.
They were having a picnic near Asheville, North Carolina, when their dog alerted them about the bear. The unleashed dog ran at the bear barking loudly, which is possibly what agitated the bear.
Afterward, the bear repeatedly attacked the couple for several minutes as they retreated to safety in their car.
“While having an unleashed dog likely resulted in the bear’s initial reaction, the victims quickly called the dog back, retreated from the situation, and defended themselves, which was the right thing to do,” Blue Ridge Parkway wrote.
After the incident, the pair drove to Mission Hospital and were treated for injuries. They were later released.
The news release added that this incident was especially concerning for biologists from the National Park Service and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. Because even after the dog was removed and put in the vehicle, the bear continued to attack and pursue the couple, which is unusual.
“This is not typical or characteristic defensive bear behavior and indicates a more predatory response. This presents an intolerable level of risk in a high-use, public area,” they noted.
The region experienced temporary closures on all the trails, and outdoor food was prohibited “due to the bold and aggressive nature of this attack.”
Officials are currently on the hunt in the area in an attempt to capture the bear. Per NC Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) protocol, if this bear is identified and captured, it will be euthanized.
“The decision to euthanize an animal of any kind in the park is never made lightly,” the statement reads. “And we are committed to identifying the correct bear through the use of DNA samples collected on-site at the time of the incident.”
Parkway officials note that fall is a critical feeding period for bears as they are preparing to enter winter hibernation.
“If attacked by a black bear, rangers strongly recommend fighting back with any object available and remember that bears may view you and your pets as prey. Though rare, attacks on humans do occur, and can cause injuries or death,” they state.
Park visitors are encouraged to keep pets on leashes, store their food correctly, and stay a safe viewing distance from bears.