By Tim Ghianni
NASHVILLE (Reuters) - A black bear bit through the tent and into the lower leg of a man who was hiking the Appalachian Trail and camped for the night at a national park in Tennessee, park officials said on Thursday.
Bradley Veeder, 49, of Las Vegas, was sleeping around 11 p.m. local time in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Tuesday when the bear attacked, park spokeswoman Dana Soehn said by telephone.
Because it was so dark, Veeder and nearby campers did not see the bear, which was initially scared away by his screams, Soehn said. Park officials said it was a black bear based on the wound and damage to tents, as well as fur and saliva collected at the scene.
Black bears are the only bears found in the region.
Veeder and the other campers retreated to a nearby shelter and the bear subsequently returned, destroying two tents, Soehn said.
Rangers carried Veeder on horseback from the campsite for about seven miles on Wednesday to an ambulance that transported him to a nearby hospital, where he was treated and released, Soehn said. He suffered puncture wounds and swelling.
The shelter has been closed temporarily and park wildlife staffers are at the campsite, monitoring the area for more bear activity, Soehn said.
“The injury is a very rare occurrence,” she said. “In the last 10 years, there’ve only been nine human-bear encounters which led to injury” in the national park that straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina state line.
There has been just one bear-related fatality - in 2000 - since the park opened in 1934, Soehn said. There are about 1,600 black bears in the park, which is visited by 10.7 million people annually.
(Reporting by Tim Ghianni; Editing by Dan Grebler)