• Father says he punched bear in face after son mauled

    ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) (AP)ong> - The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has closed several trails and backcountry campsites after a 16-year-old boy was attacked by a black bear in the Hazel Creek section of the part in North Carolina.

    A bear dragged Greg Alexander's son, Gabriel, out of a hammock Saturday night in the Hazel Creek section of the park.

    The two were 40 miles into their 50 mile backpacking trip when the bear attacked.

    According to a news release, the incident occurred around 10:30 p.m. Saturday. Gabriel was pulled from his hammock and injured by the bear.

    He received multiple injuries, including lacerations to the head, and was listed in stable condition on Sunday at Mission Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

    Greg was able to drive the bear from the area.

    "I just had to get the bear off of him. I think I kicked the bear a couple times and it didn't seem to have any effect, so I just jumped on him and started punching it in the face," he said.

    Greg said he also threw some rocks at the bear. Then he and his son had to hike five miles to get help.

    They were on a backpacking trip in the Smokies, according to the release. When the attack occurred, they were sleeping in hammocks approximately 10 feet apart and had all equipment, food, and packs properly stored on aerial food storage cables.

    "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 Superintendent Cassius Cash. "The safety of our visitors is our number one priority."

    Hazel Creek Trail, Jenkins Ridge Trail, Bone Valley Trail, Cold Spring Gap Trail and backcountry campsites 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, and 88 have been closed until further notice. Derrick Knob shelter along the Appalachian Trail has also been closed until officials can determine whether recent bear activity at the shelter may also be related to the same bear.

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