Veterinarians at the University of Tennessee are performing a necropsy on a black bear that attacked a boy and his father in Great Smoky Mountains National Park to determine whether the bruin had rabies or some other health problem.
Eight-year-old Evan Pala, of Boca Raton, Florida, sustained minor lacerations and puncture wounds when the 86-pound black bear attacked him Monday evening not far from the Rainbow Falls Trailhead. The boy's father, John Pala, sustained superficial cuts on his hands while trying to defend his son from the bear.
The two were treated and released from Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Facility in Sevierville, Tennessee, Monday night.
Park rangers who responded to the incident are convinced that they shot and killed the bear that attacked the Pala family. Rangers arrived within minutes after the incident and the bear that they came across matched the description given by John Pala. This bear charged the rangers, a behavior that is very unusual for black bears.
While veterinarians at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine have been asked to determine whether the bear had rabies, park officials say rabies is extremely rare in wild bears and has never been documented in a Great Smoky Mountains National Park bear.
Park wildlife biologists report that there has been no bear activity reported along the Rainbow Falls Trail recently.
Bears typically are active throughout the park at this time of year. While currently there are several backcountry campsites closed and bear warning signs posted because of known bear activity, park wildlife personnel so far have had fewer human-bear conflicts reported this year than normal.
The bear that was shot did not have an ear tag or tattoo, indicating that it had not been previously captured.
This is the first serious bear-human incident since 2000, when a woman was killed by a 113-pound sow and her yearling cub.
Park officials stress that visitor injuries by bears are uncommon in the Smokies and when they have occurred, typically involved minor bites or scratches resulting from a bear trying to obtain human food. Park biologists have documented seven minor human injuries over the past 10 years, mainly involving bears trying to get at human food and injuring a visitor in the process.
The Pala family was in the park on a day hike on the Rainbow Falls Trail. On their way back they went down to LeConte Creek to take pictures.