Bears in the Smoky Mountains are active while getting ready for hibernation this year. Sightings and encounters with people have been on the rise this autumn since many bears are traveling as much as 10-15 miles outside their normal foraging range within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in search of food. Visitors and residents alike should take extra measures to secure trash in your automobiles, homes and businesses.
National Park Rangers report the increased bear activity is due to an unusually low amount of forest foods available this year. White Oak acorns, Red Oak acorns and other nuts, known as the mast crop, have provided an extremely low yield. There has also been a lack of carbohydrate-rich wild cherries available for the bears this year.
For those planning a hike, the National Park reports increased bear activity on the following trails this fall:
Laurel Falls Trail – Little River Road
Little River Trail – Elkmont
Grotto Falls Trail – Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail
Ramsey Cascades Trail – Greenbrier
Mt. LeConte Lodge Area
For those planning to backpack, the National Park reports increased bear activity at the following backcountry sites this fall:
Cosby Knob Shelter
Mt. LeConte Shelter
Russell Field Shelter
Backcountry Campsites 13, 21, 24, 38, 41, 95
Backcountry Campsite 113 is currently closed
For up-to-date backcountry trail and campsite information, call the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at 865-436-1297.
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources strongly encourages visitors and residents in the Smoky Mountains to use the following tips to keep both bears and humans happily coexisting:
Do not feed bears.
Keep pet food indoors and feed pets in the house or garage.
Store garbage in bear-proof containers outdoors or keep garbage indoors where it’s inaccessible to bears.
Clean outdoor grills after use and if possible store grill indoors.
Do not put out bird feeders between and April and January when bears are most active.
Do not add food to your compost piles.
For more information on black bears and safety, visit Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Bear Facts of Hibernation
Bears start preparing during the summer for over-wintering by gaining as much weight as 30 pounds per week. Through the fall, their activity will decrease as they wait to receive some unidentified signal that its time to enter the den. Bears make dens in hollowed-out trees, burrows, caves, and rock crevices. Black bears keep their heads and torsos warm enough that they can wake if disturbed.