elk bugling
September 26, 2022

The Great Smoky Mountains are a must-visit place for many reasons. They are among the oldest mountain ranges in the world, yet their beauty remains timeless. Another important aspect of the Great Smoky Mountains is the wildlife. This iconic landmark has an expansive population of animals that call it home. In fact, the Smoky Mountains has over 65 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds, and more than 67 native fish species. We’re going to tell you about some of our favorite Smoky Mountain wildlife. Here are some interesting facts about 3 popular animals in the Smoky Mountains!

1. Black Bears

Black bears are one of the most popular animals in the Smoky Mountains. In fact, it is estimated that there are over 1,500 black bears here. They are able to live at high and low elevations because of their unique characteristics. First, they are great climbers because their claws can grow to as long as white board erasers (that’s over 5 inches)! Second, black bears are not slow creatures. Don’t let their size fool you as they can run at speeds of 25-30mph. Black bears are also great swimmers! This skill is useful for catching one of their main food sources: Fish. You can see black bears all over the park, but they are more populated in Cades Cove and Newfound Gap Road.

2. Salamanders

salamander on the ground

Salamanders are another popular animal in the Smoky Mountains. They are so popular that the Smoky Mountains are labeled as the “Salamander Capital of the World.” These small creatures are not as easy to spot as black bears, so you’ll have to look closely at the ground or on a tree trunk to see them. They tend to lounge under rocks or in trees to stay cool during the day, and come out at night to eat. It is also interesting that some species can breathe through their skin. As for their eating habits, salamanders chow down on small animals such as insects, worms, and spiders. Salamanders have no problem catching food as they can have tongues that are up to 10 times as long as their bodies! As you’re exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you’ll find salamanders hiding in creeks and streams. Grotto Falls is a popular place to spot them because of the cool climate around the falls!

3. Elk

Elk are among the bigger animals that inhabit the Smoky Mountains. When you see them, the way you can tell males and females apart is by the presence of antlers. Males have antlers while females do not. Antlers on an elk are incredible because of how fast-growing they are! Sunlight can help the antlers grow, and they can grow by as much as an inch in a single day. Even if you don’t see any elk, you’ll definitely hear them because they are the loudest members of the deer family. During mating season, the males practice bugling which is a high-pitched roaring sound. As for other forms of communication, elk can talk to each other by clicking their feet. If you want to see these majestic creatures during your park visit, you can spot them in Cataloochee Valley or the Oconaluftee lowlands. They are most active in the early morning and evening.

We hope you enjoyed these interesting facts about popular animals in the Smoky Mountains. If you want to see some of them during your next visit, read over all the guidelines for wildlife viewing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.