A couple was treated for injuries and released Wednesday evening after a bear attack in the parking area of the Folk Art Center near Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The couple was having a picnic on a grassy hill near the Folk Art Center when they were alerted to a bear by their dog. The unleashed dog ran toward the bear while barking loudly. Likely aggravated by the dog, the bear acted defensively toward the dog and the couple, officials said.
Over the next several minutes, there were repeated attacks by the bear while the couple retreated with their dog to the safety of their vehicle. The couple drove to Mission Hospital in Asheville, where they were both treated for their injuries and released.
Due to the bold and aggressive nature of the bear attack, temporary closures are in place on trails in the area and outdoor food is currently prohibited.
Closures and restrictions include:
• The Mountains to Sea Trail from the intersection with the Visitor Center Loop Trail near parkway milepost 384 to Riceville Road Bridge at milepost 382
• The Folk Art Center Nature Loop Trail and all trails accessed off of Bull Mountain Road
• Picnicking is prohibited between the Asheville Visitor Center and adjacent parking areas near parkway milepost 384 to the Haw Creek Overlook near milepost 380
During the busy fall season on the Parkway, visitors are reminded that the fall is also a critical feeding period for bears before they enter winter hibernation. Park visitors are reminded to take necessary precautions, including properly following food storage regulations, keeping pets leashed and remaining at a safe viewing distance from bears. 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.
Park rangers and wildlife biologists, in coordination with N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission are attempting to capture the bear and conducting and foot patrols of the area where the couple was attacked.
Officials say they collected forensic evidence to use for DNA analysis. If the bear in question is captured and positively identified, officials will humanely euthanize the animal, per park and Wildlife protocol.