Black bears can be seen all over the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the surrounding areas.
With approximately 1,500 bears in the park, the population density is roughly two bears per square mile!
This means that bear sightings in the park are quite common, especially during the early morning and late evening hours in spring and summer when they are the most active. Females with newly born cubs usually come out of their become active in late March or early April, where the cubs will remain with their mother for about 18 months or until she mates again.
While attacks on humans are rare, remember that bears are wild animals, and they can have unpredictable behavior! If you happen to see a bear while hiking or near your cabin, do not approach the bear and don’t allow the bear to approach you. Do not attempt to feed or interact. If you are too close, the bear might make loud noises or swat the ground to demand more space. In that case, do not run but slowly back away to increase the distance between you and the bear. If a bear still persistently approaches, act aggressively and change your direction. The National Park Service has a comprehensive list of how you should react if you see a bear.
While we think about protecting ourselves from bears, we are also a threat to their safety and well-being. One of the best things you can do to protect bears is to clean up any garbage after having an outdoor picnic. This is because bears lose their fear of people when obtaining human food and garbage, making them more likely to get hit by cars and fall victim to poachers. Therefore, clean up any garbage scraps and dispose them in garbage containers and lock the containers if available or take them with you for disposal. While it may be tempting to take a picture of a bear, another way to protect them and yourself is to stay at least 50 yards away (Illegal to be closer inside the park) at all times and never approach the bear. Never feed the bear or leave any food out for a bear. Even if it is natural. The learned behavior of associating people with food is deadly for them. Remember, cute cubs turn into 400 pound adults.