The Smoky Mountain area is one of the few places in the United States where wild black bears can be found living in their natural habitat. While this certainly adds to the appeal of those who want to observe these animals from a safe distance in the wild, it can also be dangerous for those who don’t understand bears in the Smoky Mountains. If you see black bears in the Smoky Mountains during a hike or picnic, these tips from the National Park Service should keep your family safe.
Do Not Approach the Bear
If you see a Smoky Mountain bear, do not approach it. In fact, it is illegal to willingly come within 150 feet of a black bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Black bears in the wild appreciate personal space and they can act aggressively towards people who invade their space. If a Smoky Mountain bear begins making loud noises or running in your direction, your first instinct will likely be to run away. The key is to stand your ground and do not run. Instead, back away slowly and keep your eye on the bear. When you distance yourself from the bear, it will back away from you.
If a bear follows you without making signs of aggression, change direction to create some distance between the two of you. If it gets too close, try to act aggressively yourself to intimidate it. If you are scared, shout at it, throw rocks at it, and head to higher ground to make yourself look as big as possible. Always act together with your family or companions. Most importantly, do not run and do not turn away from the bear.
Separate Yourself from Food Items
Most bear attacks occur when a bear tries to steal a person’s food. These usually result in minor injuries. If a bear gets close to you when you have food, separate yourself from the food and back away slowly. A bear’s diet consists almost completely of fruits and berries. Bears are only interested in your food items. There are designated picnic areas at many of the scenic parks and hiking areas. For the best experience, use those designated areas! It is important to respect the habitat of the bears in the Smoky Mountains, so for the safety of your family and future families, be sure to pick up and dispose of any garbage from a picnic site.
If you see a Smoky Mountain bear, appreciate it at a distance! It is exciting to see the bears, but black bears are not huggable creatures and can be unpredictable.