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Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park


An 8-year-old Florida boy sustained minor injuries Monday evening when attacked by a young black bear in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A bear thought to have been behind the attack was later killed by rangers.

The attack was reported about 7:30 p.m. local time along the Rainbow Falls Trail, a popular hiking trail off the Cherokee Orchard Road just south of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Rangers say Evan Pala, of Boca Raton, Florida, was playing along LeConte Creek about 300 yards up Rainbow Falls Trail from the trailhead when he was reportedly attacked twice by a bear. The boy suffered non-life-threatening cuts, scratches and puncture wounds. The boy’s father, John Pala, also of Boca Raton was able to drive off the animal with sticks and rocks, but sustained some minor injuries himself.

The boy was transported by Gatlinburg Ambulance to Fort Sanders Sevier Medical Center in Sevierville Tennessee, and the father drove to the same facility for treatment.

Based upon the father’s description of the bear and the location, Rangers went to the scene and encountered a bear that acted aggressively towards them as well. They shot the bear. They did locate a child’s shoe and a cap at the sight that they believe belonged to the family.

Park Wildlife Management personnel also responded. They described the bear as an estimated 55-pound male – probably a yearling. The animal was transported to the University of Tennessee Veterinary Medical Center for a necropsy to establish that it is the bear that attacked the child.

No names or home town are available for release at this time.


Hopefully the boy will mend fine and not be too traumatized by the attack. Unfortunately a bear – the assumed attacker - was destroyed.

In May my son came home from his university for the weekend. As always, he came in to the house said hello, stretched, drank some water and went back out to get his bags. He came back in real quick telling me a young black bear was out on the driveway.

I snuck out and snap a few pictures of a “curious” 18-24 month old black bear looking at me from around the corner. I then called our state game and fish people (no easy task though thanks to a professional 911 county operator we finally got hold of someone that night). Ultimately, the young bear was captured and relocated. We live in rural Washington State.

With nearly 35 years in the NPS I only head one close encounter with black bears. I worked a bear jams in South Yellowstone NP in the early ‘70’s. A lot of the people exhibited some really strange and dangerous “behavior.” People, way too many people, lack a general awareness of what’s going on around them. The parks are not unfenced, open air zoos.

I agree with Bob. I live at the Foothills of the N. Ga. Mountains. While I've never came in close contact with a bear, we do have deer that visit our home. People that visit with nature need to understand it's not like walking around in the city. The animals are in their "home" territory. Stay alert of your surroundings, not only with your eyes, but with smell. Most wild animals have their own scent that you can smell if you are alert. I know the boy is just a child, but they should be educated also.

It is unfortunate the "alledged bear" was killed. I'm sure, and hope, the Rangers done what they thought was best. As a nature lover, I've learned to respect the animals and enjoy them at the same time. After all, what would the world be like without them.

why did they feel the need to kill this black bear? They people were in the bear's territory, he was just being protective. They are always so quick to kill wildlife instead of trapping and relocating. I feel they were wrong in what they did, because they are saying they are going to do a necropsy to see if this is the bear that attacked the boy?? Well how will they tell that? I would love to know. After all this, they may have killed the wrong bear, How very Sad.

I was in that part of the park last Wednesday on the 6th of Aug. We also encountered a small black bear that
acted strange. We did not approach the bear, he approached us. He was not afraid of anyone and he did come after us. In fact, I have 2 nice scratches on my car from him. I really am not worried about my car but of the safety of the bears and the people. I am also a nature lover but something was wrong with that bear. We saw 6 other bears while we were down there last week including a mother with her 2 cubs and they were not aggressive like the small bear we encountered. We also saw 2 copperhead snakes in Cades Cove that they captured while we were there to relocate them so I know they relocate bears also. Don't be so quick to judge.The bear also came after the ranger who is there to protect the animals as well as the humans. I did report my incident to the rangers and they contacted me as soon as they got the paper work. I have a picture of the bear that came after us so that may help them find out if it was the same. Remember, the rangers are there to protect and I'm sure you would appreciate that if you were the victim.

I wonder how many of us know what strange behavior from a bear is. We don't hang out with them all day, and most of us are not reasearchers in that field. Killing the animal was excessive. Humans keep encroaching on their lands to build homes, ranches, cottages, we hunt, bike, hike and poach. How about we let them live their lives without disturbance from us. Glad the boy is ok, he was lucky the bear was still a young.

I get really tired of reading posts that "defend" the animals more than "human life & safety". YES, I agree, all of us who enjoy observing wildlife need to be VERY careful ... especially in National & other Parks where the wildlife can become accustomed to people. It is indeed a sad affair when an animal has to be killed because someone wasn't following the rules or being respectful of the wildlife's habitat (ie keeping our food in appropriate containers, etc.).

BUT, when there are "unprovoked" attacks on humans (such as this case with the black bear and the 8 yr old, charging the rangers (who KNOW how to act around wildlife), etc), the top & only priority should be to protect the people. When relocation isn't possible, because of an animal's aggressive behavior, then we need to respect the decision of the experts and not be so critical! There are indeed instances, where the only course of action is to kill the animal (ie, the bear in this story, zoo tigers who escape & attack people, etc.).

Respectfully submitted.

(my favorite hobby -- observing & photographing wildlife)

This is a general comment. I am in no way saying this child provoked the situation. I've visited this area many times and have encountered bears several times. I've heard stories about people leaving food out and/or not latching trash containters so they could attract bears. I've witnessed a few dumpster diving bears and they act pretty fearless of humans. Why do people leave food traps? I'm not sure if they're hoping to get a photo on vacation or what. But, I believe this is what helps to create agressive bear behavior near humans. In Cade's Cove, I've seen people stop their cars and jump out with their cameras to get as close as possible to capture a bear photo. I think people need to be more respectful of nature, but I also agree that if relocation isn't a possibility, the animal should be destroyed for safety reasons. It's sad, but the behavior most likely will not change once they're agressive.

Unfortunately these things tend to happen. What i'd like to know is, where were the parents when this happened?

Myself, my fiancee and our 5 year old daughter stayed at Leconte Lodge and hiked it via the Alum Cave Trail on July 31st. We never let our daughter out of our site, because nature, although beautiful is very dangerous. I'm just glad the boy didn't suffer severe injuries.

"Remember, if you carry it in, carry it out"

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