It was reported that the unidentified woman was wearing headphones at the time and had no advance warning of the approaching bear.
The park’s wildlife biologist and park rangers spoke with the woman on Monday after receiving a radio report about a bear attack, which occurred Saturday, Great Smoky Mountains National Park spokesperson Dana Soehn told WBIR.
The woman had fallen 20 minutes behind the people she was hiking with in the eastern section of the park near Camel Gap, and the encounter happened very quickly. Fortunately the bear kept on going.
Soehn told WBIR that it’s not unusual for bears to cross the trails while people are hiking, but it is unusual for a collision to occur, adding that normally people hear a bear’s approach and have time to react before the crossing.
The lesson is clear: don’t wear headphones or two ear buds while hiking.
The CVC §27400 states a person may not wear a headset covering, earplugs, or earphones in both ears.
A person wearing both ear buds can't hear other trail users alerting them or wildlife. They are a danger to themselves and others.
“Situational awareness is one of the key components for safety on the Appalachian Trail, so anything that impairs one’s ability to actively assess their immediate environment increases their chances of injury or getting lost,” Jordan Bowman of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy told USA Today/For The Win Outdoors.
“We also encourage hikers to embrace headphones-free hiking so that they can experience the sounds of nature around them — for many, hearing sounds like a distant loon call or the chirps of cicadas are some of the most memorable parts of their hikes.”
Among other common safety practices while hiking in bear country are to avoid hiking alone, make plenty of noise to avoid startling a bear, be aware of your surroundings and stick to the trail.
Photos courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.