Appalachian Trail Histories


Black Bears

Bear population map

A map of the Bear population across the United states

Covered in all black with an exception of a brown muzzle, weighing in anywhere from 100 to a whopping 400 pounds we have the American Black bear. Being the most feared animal to be found on the Appalachian trail one would think that they are to be very dangerous.  In fact, this is not true. 

In the last 16 years (2000-2016) there have been 23 Confirmed attacks have proved fatal by black bears.  Only two of these accounts were located on the Appalachian trail, both located in Tennessee.  The first was in May of 2000, Glenda Ann Bradley hiked a few miles of the trail to meet up with a friend at a fishing spot in the Smoky Mountains National forest.   Unfortunately, she was found deceased near a mother black bear and her cub.  This was the first fatal attack ever recorded in the Smoky Mountains.  The second was an attack on a whole family; one fatality Elora Petrasek, age 6.  They parked and hike about a mile down the trail in Cherokee National Forest to some swimming holes at the bottom of some waterfalls.  The bear had apparently stalked them from the parking lot to the pools.  After the attack two were wounded and both taken to a hospital.  Shortly after the attack, rescuers found Elora’s body being hovered over by the attacked bear. 

In both cases, the Park Rangers tried to euthanize the bears to prevent further attacks.  To this day, even if the bear attacks are not fatal they continue to practice this.  For example, Peachpeak’s encounter with a bear this year; Park Rangers attempted to euthanize the bear that attacked him.  This practice is supposed to keep trails safe and keep the number of attacks low.  However, as the statistics stand, there’s roughly 1 fatal attack every 8-10 years.  The ATC claims nearly 3million visited the trail this year, this means that nearly 1 in 24-30million chance you will be involved in a fatal bear attack.