Trail Closed After Bear Fatally Injures Hiker’s Dog Near Blue Ridge Parkway

Rangers are urging hikers to follow safety rules after an unleashed dog “provoked” a black bear into fatally attacking a hiker’s leashed dog.

Photo: jared lloyd / Moment via Getty

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Rangers closed part of a trail along the Blue Ridge Parkway after a bear attacked and fatally injured a hiker’s dog, the National Park Service says.

The incident was the first of a series of encounters between hikers and bears that occurred near Asheville, North Carolina, between mid-May and early June; the NPS has not specified exactly when each incident occurred. In an email to the Charlotte Observer on June 23, the park service said that an unleashed dog near the Bull Mountain Trail “provoked a bear to attack a leashed dog that sustained serious injuries.” Following the attack, the leashed dog’s owners took their pet to a veterinarian, who euthanized the animal due to its wounds.

Following the fatal attack, two more hikers reported “aggressive” encounters with bears in the same area. One hiker reported that a bear had bluff charged her and her leashed dog; another hiker who was traveling alone reported that a bear had bluff charged him. As a result, the NPS announced last week that it would close a half-mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail near Bull Mountain until June 30.

In a press release, NPS wildlife biologist Tom Davis said that while “these early season encounters are not out of the ordinary,” park officials wanted to take the opportunity to remind visitors about steps they can take to keep themselves safe.

Chief among those steps: keeping their dogs on a leash, which the Blue Ridge Parkway requires. Despite many hikers’ belief that dogs help protect their owners from wildlife, pet canines have provoked multiple bear attacks on both themselves and their owners in recent years. In a 2014 paper in International Bear News, prominent bear researcher Stephen Herrero analyzed news reports on 92 black bear attacks on people and found that more than half of them involved a dog, including a whopping 91 percent of the attacks by females with cubs, which almost never attack humans unless provoked.

Furthermore, Herrero wrote that while he couldn’t consistently tell which dogs had been unleashed, reporting suggested that in the “vast majority” of cases, the dogs had been loose. His advice to hikers?

“If you’re out there in bear country, probably you should keep your dog under control,” he told the CBC. 

From 2023