Smoky Mountain Bear Attack: Shocking Story Behind 16-Year-Old Backpacker Ripped Out of Hammock by Bear in 2015

by Emily Morgan

In 2015, a 16-year-old boy in Asheville, North Carolina was the victim of a horrifying bear attack. While lying in a hammock at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, he was ripped out of it by a bear.

The attack occurred in the Hazel Creek section of the park at backcountry campsite No. 84. The camp is about 4.5 miles from Lake Fontana’s shoreline on the national park’s North Carolina side.

The boy and his father were camping with food and equipment properly stored. However, it didn’t stop the bear from ripping him from the hammock. Park officials state that the incident happened around 10:30 p.m.

“It sounds like the son and father were doing the right things,” park spokesperson Dana Soehn told WBIR. “It was just a very rare and unusual situation.”

Following the attack, the boy’s father forced the bear from the campsite and began administering first aid to his son.

After hiking to Lake Fontana’s shore, they were airlifted by Graham County Rescue EMS to Mission Health in Asheville.

They arrived at the hospital at approximately 3 a.m. and remained conscious and in stable condition throughout treatment.

Smoky Mountain Park Officials Close Trails Following Bear Attack

Following the attack, the park closed several trails and other backcountry campsites near the site of the attack. They also sent rangers and biologists to the scene to clear the area of campers and investigate the attack’s circumstances.

“While incidents with bears are rare, we ask park visitors to take necessary precautions while hiking in bear country and comply with all backcountry closures,” said park Superintendent Cassius Cash. “The safety of our visitors is our No. 1 priority.”

Some 1,600 black bears call the Smokies home, resulting in more sightings and interactions for visitors.

While officials teach visitors to stay away from bears, as humans cross paths with them, the dangerous meeting can break down their natural fears.

However, park officials often stress that such attacks are rare. In 2020, there were five known bear attacks in the park, with only one of those resulting in fatality.