© Jess Thompson
Black Bear
A black bear attacked and injured an adult hiker at Douthat State Park on Saturday.

Her wounds, which required stitches but were not life-threatening, represent Virginia's first ever bear-inflicted injury on a human that didn't involve hunting, said Jim Meisner, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Unprovoked bear attacks are unheard of, Meisner said. Officials tracked and killed the animal they believe is responsible for the attack. It was shipped off to be tested for rabies and to compare its DNA to bear saliva left on the victim's clothes.

The woman belonged to a party of five, possibly all in one family, who explored the area around Tuscarora Overlook on the west side of the park near Clifton Forge on Saturday afternoon. About 6 p.m., the group startled a bear and group members ran, Meisner said. The bear followed the woman and, in what he said was "an incredibly rare occurrence," knocked her down and bit and scratched her on the leg and back, causing lacerations.

Other members of the party returned and scared off the bear , he said.

Lee Walker, outreach director for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, described the bear as a female 150 to 200 pounds that may have pursued the woman because members of the group dispersed in different directions upon seeing the bear. Upon encountering a bear, it's most prudent to move away slowly and not run, Walker said. State officials also suggest hiking with others and not spending time alone. Virginia is home to 17,000 bears.

Once regrouped, the five people walked back to the Douthat parking lot to their vehicle, a 4-mile journey that the attack victim completed on foot. She rode in a private vehicle to LewisGale Hospital Alleghany, where she was treated, received rabies and tetanus shots, and was released, Meisner said.

Personnel with DCR and DGIF, using tracking dogs given the bear's scent off the woman's clothes, traced the animal's path to a location outside the park, Walker said. After a lengthy assessment about what to do, state personnel shot and killed the bear with a rifle at about 4 a.m. on Sunday, 10 hours after the attack, state officials said.

Public safety concerns that the bear might attack another person justified the animal's killing, Walker said. Another option would have been to trap and relocate the bear; however, state officers ruled out that option because of the remoteness of the area, Walker said.

The Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory at East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania will help analyze the bear's body, Meisner said. Officials are confident they shot the bear that attacked, but want tests to confirm it, he said. Test results are expected in a few days.

"There is no danger to the public, and all park guests have been notified of the incident," Douthat officials said in a news release.

The park closed miles of trails on the west side of the park Sunday as a precaution. The park plans to reopen them Monday, Meisner said.