Smoky Mountain Bears

HeySmokies.com black bear

Be bear aware when you visit their home!

Smoky Mountain Bears are the symbol of the Smokies and sighting one is always a special event! With the tourist season in full swing and a record number of visitors to the Smoky Mountains predicted this summer, along with reports from National Park rangers of increased bear activity, the opportunities for an encounter with the Smoky’s most iconic symbol have increased as well. Approximately 1,600 black bears live in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and this year sightings and encounters seem to be on the rise.

There are a few things that visitors and locals alike need to know regarding black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains.

For many, spotting a bear is the most exciting part of their vacation in the Smokies. And rightly so, the majestic creatures are truly a sight to behold and their furry cuteness creates some sort of romantic notion about their gentleness. However, bears in the Great Smoky Mountains Park are wild creatures and can be dangerously unpredictable. At speeds of 30 mph, black bears can outrun, outclimb, and outswim humans.

One of the most important things to remember if you are lucky enough spot a bear is to keep a safe distance of at least 150 feet (50 yards) and do not approach. If you see a bear and he changes his behavior or looks your way, then you are way too close. To get that great picture, use a telephoto lens. If you want to view the bear up close, use binoculars or a spotting scope.

If you’re in the bear’s personal space, it may begin to make noises, paw at the ground or charge toward you. If this happens, slowly back away from bear while keeping your eyes on it. Do not turn and run no matter your instincts to do just that! If the bear continues toward you, act aggressively by making lots of noise, make yourself look big and shout at the bear, throw rocks at the bear and use a sturdy stick as a deterrent. Do not throw food at the bear; this only causes further problems. However, if it appears that the bear is after you for your food, separate yourself from the food and back away slowly. If in the rare instance of an attack, fight aggressively with any objects you can find. Do not play dead or the bear may consider you prey!

Park officials expect the increased bear activity to slow down a bit as the summer berries come on providing an ample food source. However, park visitors should continue to be hyper-vigilant in their litter and garbage containment. The single, most important thing that visitors and locals alike can do to protect the bears and themselves is to dispose of garbage properly. That means placing your garbage in bear-proof containers, or better yet, just pack out all your garbage with you. Here’s a friendly reminder: apple cores, watermelon rinds, orange and banana peels are garbage; just because they are natural doesn’t mean they belong on the side of the road. During the busy summer months, park picnic areas close at 8:00 p.m. so that park staff and volunteers can thoroughly clean these areas of food scraps and other trash left by careless visitors. The saying is true, a fed bear is a dead bear.

Wildlife viewing is a highlight of any visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Enjoy it safely! Check out this great video of HeySmokies’ friend, retired ranger Butch McDade, talking bears.

 

More Hey Smokies Features:

Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event
Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event...
Smoky Mountain Stargazing Event. Star gazing is always a Smoky Mountains special event. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is hosting a stargaz[Read More >>]
North America's Longest Footbridge
North America's Longest Footbridge...
North America's Longest Footbridge. Gatlinburg Sky Bridge Opens May 17, 2019. When you travel to Gatlinburg you will have no trouble finding the[Read More >>]
Fourth Annual Appalachian Bear Fest
Fourth Annual Appalachian Bear Fest...
Fourth Annual Appalachian Bear Fest is scheduled for Saturday, June 1, 2019 from 11 a.m. til 3 p.m. at the ABR Visitor and Education Center, 121[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Trillium Gap Rehabilitation Closes Trail
Smoky Mountain Trillium Gap Rehabilitation Closes Trail...
Smoky Mountain Trillium Gap Rehabilitation Closes Trail. Beginning May 13, 2019 work begins on improving the much loved Trillium Gap trail. This[Read More >>]
HighlandersUnite Highland Games Gatlinburg
HighlandersUnite Highland Games Gatlinburg...
HighlandersUnite Highland Games Gatlinburg. The Highlander Games of Gatlinburg (HUGG) are always a Smoky Mountain special event! The games retur[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe
Smoky Mountain Tamale Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Tamale recipe. Homemade tamales are always a Smoky Mountain special event! Did you know that the Smoky Mountains are on the edge [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Cinco de Mayo Events
Smoky Mountain Cinco de Mayo Events...
Smoky Mountain Cinco de Mayo Events. Cinco de Mayo (which actually means May 5 in Spanish) is always a Smoky Mountain special event and is proba[Read More >>]
Dollywood Welcomes Wildwood Grove Guests
Dollywood Welcomes Wildwood Grove Guests...
Dollywood Welcomes Wildwood Grove Guests beginning May 2019. This is sure to be a great year for America's favorite theme park. The Wildwood Gro[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Ramp Pesto Recipe
Smoky Mountain Ramp Pesto Recipe...
Smoky Mountain Ramp Pesto Recipe. Ramps, allium tricoccum, have been a Smoky Mountain secret delicacy for generations. This delicious bulb and i[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced...
Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Dates Announced. Every year in late May or early June, thousands of visitors gather near the popular Elkmont [Read More >>]
14th Annual Master Gardener Flower And Garden Show
14th Annual Master Gardener Flower And Garden Show...
14th Annual Master Gardener Flower And Garden Show is a great Smoky Mountain event! The event is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, 2019 from 9 a[Read More >>]
Dolly Parton Mural
Dolly Parton Mural...
Dolly Parton Mural in Asheville, North Carolina. Sevierville’s own Dolly Parton is larger than life in Asheville this year. Sevierville's favori[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Grist Mills
Smoky Mountain Grist Mills...
Smoky Mountain grist mills. Mountain streams and rivers provided water power for early grist mills. The fast-moving creeks of the Great Smoky Mo[Read More >>]
Fourth Annual Color Me Mutt 5K
Fourth Annual Color Me Mutt 5K...
Fourth Annual Color Me Mutt 5K is scheduled for Saturday, April 27, 2019. Nascar Speed Park in Sevierville, Tennessee will host the event again [Read More >>]
Ruby Throated Hummingbirds
Ruby Throated Hummingbirds...
Ruby throated Hummingbirds due to appear in East Tennessee. April in East Tennessee marks the time to get out hummingbird feeders and fill them [Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Mars Probe Launch Successful
Smoky Mountain Mars Probe Launch Successful...
Smoky Mountain Mars Probe Launch Successful. The recent Clingmans Dome Mars probe launch heralded a new era of cooperation between the Natio[Read More >>]
Updated Great Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Lottery Dates
Updated Great Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Lottery Dates...
Updated Great Smoky Mountain Synchronous Firefly Lottery Dates. The dates for the 2019 Synchronous Firefly shuttle operations calendar will be a[Read More >>]
Dollywood Festival Of Nations 2019
Dollywood Festival Of Nations 2019...
Dollywood Festival Of Nations 2019. Feel the beat at Dollywood’s Festival of Nations scheduled March 16, - April 14, 2019.  Entertainers from se[Read More >>]
Smoky Mountain Super Moon
Smoky Mountain Super Moon...
Smoky Mountain Super Moon will rise above the Southern Appalachian mountains Wednesday, March 20, 2019. This Smoky Mountain special event is the[Read More >>]
Knoxville's Urban Wilderness
Knoxville's Urban Wilderness...
Knoxville's Urban Wilderness Is Wild. The urban wilderness is gaining national recognition for it's expansive multi-use trail system and l[Read More >>]