Athens Teen Survives Bear Attack in NC

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A 16-year-old Athens youth was hospitalized after being attacked by a bear Saturday while backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina.

“He’s OK. He’s going to be alright,” Greg Alexander said of his son, Gabriel, on Monday morning. “He’s all stitched up.”

Alexander and his son were on the third day of a backpacking trip when the attack occurred while they were sleeping in hammocks about 10 feet apart, according to a news release from the park.

“A bear came up and pulled him out of the hammock,” Alexander said.

He fought the bear by hand to try to get it off his son.

“There’s no choice. I just hit it,” Alexander recalled. When the bear separated from his son, Alexander threw rocks at it until it ran away. He put compresses on his son’s wounds, and they hiked out of the campsite.

“We walked about 5 miles and found some people with a boat,” Alexander said.

According to the news release, campers with a boat transported them across Fantana Lake, then an emergency squad took them to a landing zone from where the teen was flown to Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

Alexander said Monday morning that he did not know when his son will be released from the hospital.

The news release said the teen had multiple injuries, including lacerations to his head.

The attack occurred in the Hazel Creek area of the park at about 10:30 p.m., and rangers closed several trails and backcountry campsites and cleared other campers out of the area, according to the news release.

“No one seems to know why the bear acted that way,” Alexander said. He said the campsite had a cable system to raise food up into the air, which they had done.

Gabriel is a student at Federal Hocking High School. Alexander said they recently moved to Athens.