An 8-year-old Florida boy sustained minor injuries Monday evening when attacked by a young black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A bear thought to have been behind the attack was later killed by rangers.
The attack was reported about 7:30 p.m. local time along the Rainbow Falls Trail, a popular hiking trail off the Cherokee Orchard Road just south of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Rangers say Evan Pala, of Boca Raton, Florida, was playing along LeConte Creek about 300 yards up Rainbow Falls Trail from the trailhead when he was reportedly attacked twice by a bear. The boy suffered non-life-threatening cuts, scratches and puncture wounds. The boy’s father, John Pala, also of Boca Raton was able to drive off the animal with sticks and rocks, but sustained some minor injuries himself.
The boy was transported by Gatlinburg Ambulance to Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center in Sevierville Tennessee, and the father drove to the same facility for treatment.
Based upon the father’s description of the bear and the location, Rangers went to the scene and encountered a bear that acted aggressively towards them as well. They shot the bear. They did locate a child’s shoe and a cap at the sight that they believe belonged to the family.
Park Wildlife Management personnel also responded. They described the bear as an estimated 55-pound male – probably a yearling. The animal was transported to the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center for a necropsy to establish that it is the bear that attacked the child.
No names or home town are available for release at this time.