RED RIVER GORGE — Crews resumed the search Tuesday for a black bear that attacked a Springfield man Sunday afternoon on a trail in the Red River Gorge.
Fifteen to 20 officers are patrolling the area, said Steven Dobey, a black bear program manager for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. The fish and wildlife department, the U.S. Forestry Department and local police are working together to find the bear.
Because of the attack, the Red River Gorge area in Daniel Boone National Forest was closed Monday and is to remained closed until further notice.
Dobey said trapping for the bear will continue Wednesday and Thursday. The Forest Service will decide in the next day or two whether to reopen the area if the bear has not been caught, but the hope is that the bear will have been trapped by then.
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Representatives from the agencies involved met Tuesday afternoon to discuss the situation.
Foothold snares and culvert bear traps — large cylindrical traps with a bait of doughnuts and honey buns on one end — were set, Dobey said. The 15 or so traps are specific to bears and should not harm other animals, he said.
Once a bear is trapped, it will be checked for identifying marks and its claws might be tested for human blood or tissue to determine whether it was responsible for attacking Tim Scott on Sunday.
Officials have said the attack was the first known black bear attack on a human in modern Kentucky history.
Scott, 56, said he was hiking on Pinch-Em Tight Trail when the bear attacked about 2:15 p.m. Sunday.
Scott said he was standing on a ledge, his blue heeler dog with him on a retractable leash, when he realized there was something behind them. When he turned, he said, the black bear was standing on the trail.
Scott took several pictures of the bear, which closed in on him. He tried to fight it off, but it was not deterred. Then, two couples who had been hiking showed up. Roberto Aspillaga said he watched Anthony Gobel swing a tree branch and yell at the bear. Aspillaga said he joined in and stopped the bear from dragging Scott further into the woods.
Aspillaga said that at one point, Gobel struck the bear with his backpack. He said the bear did not seem fullly grown, which is why he thinks the bear backed down. The four hikers helped Scott back to the trail head, and Aspillaga said the bear followed them for about half-mile before trailing off.
After Scott got to the trail head, he said, an ambulance arrived within five to eight minutes to take him to the hospital in Irvine.
He was transferred to University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital and received about 50 to 60 stitches, mostly in his right leg. Scott said he was discharged after about eight hours in the emergency room.
If officials capture the bear and confirm that it was Scott's attacker, it will be euthanized, Dobey said. Euthanizing animals is an emotional topic, he said, but human safety is always the first concern.
And concern for safety is the main reason officials closed the park.
Dobey said it's "extremely rare" for a black bear to attack a human, and in this case, the bear apparently attacked without provocation. Scott was not carrying food.
State and Forest Service officials patrolled all night Monday searching for the bear — and to make sure people stayed out of the gorge, Dobey said. Local police and sheriff's department officials are blocking entrances to the gorge.
On Monday night, a bear was seen twice a few miles from the attack site, but Dobey said it's not known whether that bear was the one that attacked Scott.
Many people are wondering whether they will have to put their weekend plans on hold.
Cabin rental and private campground companies in the area spent the day fielding phone calls from would-be tourists who were fearful of running into a bear — or were hoping to see a bear on their trip. Everyone was hoping the gorge would be open for the Fourth of July weekend.
Jim and Sue Shade, who own Red River Gorge Campground in Powell County, said they didn't expect the closing to affect their business much. They said they've never seen a bear on their property, but the Forest Service regularly patrols neighboring land.
Peggy Corry, the area manager for Recreation Resource Management, a private company that contracts with the Forest Service to run Koomer Ridge Campground at Red River Gorge, said the search for the bear probably will have some financial effect.
"It's usually the very best week of the year for us," Corry said. "That park down there is full most every week." It brings in about $3,500 to $4,000 a week when it's full, she said.
Corry works at Twin Knobs campground on Cave Run Lake near Morehead. She said her campground is nearly full with people who had to leave Koomer Ridge on Sunday and Monday.
Kimberly Morgan, public affairs specialist for Daniel Boone National Forest, said she is hoping for a best-case scenario: that the bear will be caught before the holiday weekend.
"We are not telling people to cancel their plans yet," she said. "The tourism issue is at the top of all discussions right now."
Billy Barnett, who sells firewood outside his home on Nada Tunnel Road, said he thinks the bear in Sunday's attack might have been provoked.
Barnett said he has lived near Red River Gorge for about 40 years and has seen seven or eight bears in that time, but he has never had contact with one. He said he leaves them alone.
Barnett, who joked that he might start telling people they can keep bears away by building "really big fires," said he wasn't worried about safety and was a little disappointed that the bear might have to be euthanized.
"They were here first," he said. "People just have to learn to live with them."
Barnett sold firewood to Walter and Wendy Webster from Grant County, who plan to spend a few days camping with their son, Brendan Kyle, 5.
The Websters, who arrived Tuesday, were disappointed by the closing and hoped the gorge would be open by the time they left. But they were going to spend three days at Indian Creek Campground.
"My mom just said, 'Don't become bear bait,'" Wendy Webster said.