Rangers closed part of a trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway after a bear attacked and fatally injured a hiker’s dog, according to the National Park Service.
The incident was the first in a series of encounters between hikers and bears that occurred near Asheville, North Carolina, between mid-May and early June. the NPS did not specify exactly when each incident occurred. In an email to the Charlotte Observer on June 23, the park service said a raging dog near the Bull Mountain Trail “triggered a bear to attack a leashed dog who sustained serious injuries.” Following the attack, the owners of the leashed dog took their pet to a veterinarian, who euthanized the animal due to its injuries.
Following the fatal attack, two other hikers reported “aggressive” encounters with bears in the same area. A hiker reported that a bear accused her of bluffing, she and her dog on a leash; another hiker who was traveling alone reported that a bear accused him of bluffing. As a result, the NPS announced last week that it would close a half-mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail near Bull Mountain until June 30.
In a press release, NPS wildlife biologist Tom Davis said that while “these early-season encounters aren’t out of the ordinary,” park officials wanted to take the opportunity to remind visitors the steps they can take to ensure their safety.
Foremost among these measures: keeping their dogs on a leash, which the Blue Ridge Parkway requires. Although many hikers believe that dogs help protect their owners from wildlife, companion dogs have caused multiple bear attacks on themselves and their owners in recent years. In a 2014 article in International Bear News, prominent bear researcher Stephen Herrero analyzed news reports of 92 black bear attacks on people and found that more than half of them involved a dogincluding 91% of attacks by females with cubs, which almost never attack humans unless provoked.
Additionally, Herrero wrote that while he couldn’t always say which dogs were released, reports suggested that in the “vast majority” of cases the dogs were on the loose. His advice to hikers?
“If you’re out there in bear country, you should probably keep your dog under control,” he told CBC.