Black Bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
bears are the darlings of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and many of
the millions of annual visitors go to great lengths to espy one of these
These magnificent yet reclusive mammals can be found
throughout the park, but there are several areas where you are more likely to
have a close encounter of the "bear" kind.
Cades Cove is one of the most popular areas for bear
spotting for a variety of reasons. The large open fields are devoid of trees and
allow bear seekers to scan many acres of ground at a time. It is not uncommon to
see a bear at long range lumbering along in the middle of the cove.
Another bear hot-spot is the Cherokee Orchard just outside
of Gatlinburg. The traditional bear watch starts about an hour before sunset and
continues until dark in season.
Bears are most active in the Fall as they load up on
calories in preparation for denning all winter. Bears do not hibernate is the
truest sense of the word, since they can be easily roused and will often emerge
from the den prior to the onset of Spring.
As a result, you won't see many bears in the winter, and
they are less active in Summer than in Spring or Fall.
It's exciting to see bear in the wild, but caution should
always be exercised. Bears are very strong, fast, and powerful WILD animals.
They may look cute, but they are unpredictable. Be especially wary in the
backcountry where bears are less likely to have encountered many humans.
she-bear is especially dangerous if she senses that her cubs are threatened.
Never approach ANY bear in the park, even the smallest cubs because of the
dangers posed by a protective parent!
One of the biggest traffic problems in the Great Smoky
Mountains National Park are "bear-jams." Bear-jams occur when excited visitors
block roads and stop interrupt the flow of traffic when a bear is spotted. If
you want to stop your vehicle, be sure to pull off the road far enough to allow
traffic to continue moving.
Also, watch traffic in both directions and do NOT walk on
roads. Many visitors become so excited that they forget to be mindful of
oncoming vehicles. Always walk OFF the roadway, be courteous at all times.
Wildlife viewing in the Smokies can create memories that
last a lifetime. Always remember that YOU are a visitor, but that the park
is HOME to the animals. Allow them to live unmolested by your presence.