Top 4 Things You Need to Know About Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains
- March 28, 2019
One of the things that visitors most want to see while exploring the Smoky Mountains is the black bear! While bears are fascinating to watch, it is important to keep in mind that they are wild animals with behavior that can be dangerous and unpredictable. Now that the winter season has ended, bears are starting to emerge from their winter dens so this is the perfect time to learn more about these amazing animals! Here are the top 4 things you need to know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains:
1. Black Bear Population in the National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the largest protected areas in the eastern USA where black bears can live in their natural surroundings, and they inhabit all elevations within the park. Although the populations are variable, biologists have estimated that there are approximately 1,500 bears that live in the park! Since this equals a population density of nearly 2 bears per square mile, there is always a good chance that you might see a bear while exploring the National Park.
2. Description of the Black Bear
While black bears in the Smoky Mountains are black in color, they might be brown or cinnamon in other areas of the country. During the summer season, a typical adult male bear weighs roughly 250 pounds while adult females weigh just over 100 pounds since they are generally smaller. By the fall, many bears may double their weight and there have been documented cases in the park where bears have weighed more than 600 pounds! The average life expectancy for the black bear is between 12 to 15 years, but this amount is significantly reduced for those bears who have been exposed to human food and garbage. Therefore, it is essential to dispose of food and trash properly when visiting the park.
3. Black Bear Behavior
During the winter season, bears find a den for shelter from the cold weather which is often a hollow stump or tree cavity. The black bears in the Smoky Mountains are unique in that they prefer to select a den high above the ground in standing hollow trees. While many people think that bears hibernate throughout the winter, they actually just enter long periods of sleep and may even leave the den for short periods of time during brief warming trends. In the spring and summer, black bears are most active during the early morning and late evening hours.
4. Black Bear Safety
If you happen to see a black bear in the Smoky Mountains, you should treat the encounter with extreme caution as bears can be dangerous. In fact, attacks on humans have occurred although this is extremely rare. When you see a bear, don’t approach it and do not allow the bear to approach you. The important thing to remember is that you don’t want to get too close to a black bear as this may cause the bear to act aggressively in order to protect its space. Therefore, keep a safe distance at all times!
Now that you are familiar with the top things you need to know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains, you might just see a bear for yourself while exploring the Smokies! Learn more about other Smoky Mountain wildlife in the National Park.