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Everything You Need to Know About Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains

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three bears in Cades Cove

People travel from all around the country to see the abundant wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, including the fan-favorite, the black bear. With over 1,600 black bears in the Smokies, it’s no wonder these beautiful animals have almost become the mascot of the park. While you’re not guaranteed to see a black bear on your trip to the Smokies, it is extremely exciting when you do! Here is everything you need to know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains:

1. You must stay at least 50 yards away

Black BearThe Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires all visitors to keep a minimum of 50 yards distance between yourself and the bear. While black bears are not known for aggression and don’t typically attack people, they have been known to defend themselves when they feel threatened. This distance is for the safety of yourself and the bears alike. We recommend visitors bring a set of binoculars or a spotting scope so you can observe the bears from a safe distance. Failure to adhere to these guidelines can result in fines and potential arrest, so please respect the bear’s home and space.

2. You cannot feed the bears

On the rare occasion black bears get aggressive with humans, food is normally involved. Believe it or not, black bears are actually scared of humans, but when you feed them, they begin to lose that fear and their behavior becomes unpredictable. In order to avoid this situation, keep all food items you have secured and never leave it unattended. If you do run into a black bear at your campsite or elsewhere, make sure you identify yourself to the bear and do not run. By identifying yourself, the bear will recognize you as a human and not prey. By moving sideways slowly you can keep an eye on the bear and it will identify you as non-threatening.

3. Best spots to see black bears in the Smokies

Black Bear and CubsOne of the most popular sighting locations for black bears in the Smoky Mountains is Cades Cove. Typically in the early morning or late evening, visitors can spot the bears walking throughout the cove. The 11-mile loop road allows you to view the bears from your car or bike. If you’re lucky you’ll get to see a mother bear and cubs together. While Cades Cove is an extremely popular area for black bears, you can still see them anywhere throughout the park.

Now that you know more about black bears in the Smoky Mountains you can start planning your next trip. Look through our Smoky Mountain cabin rentals and book with us today!