(800) 837-7022 Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Information on Bears in the National Park
If you've been in the Park recently, you may have noticed more bears than usual. According to Smokies Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver the reasons for recent increases in bear/people encounters and bear activity in general are basically 2 fold-
1) This summer's berry crop has been poor. In the low elevations where berries have already come and gone, the blackberry crop was subpar, producing berries that were small and few in numbers. The berry season that seems to be in an arrested state of development with very few blackberries ripe in the high elevation, and almost no huckleberries or blueberries to speak of.
Typically during the break between summer berries and the fall hard mast black bears, especially in Cades Cove, have cherries to help get them through this lull, but there also seem to be few if any cherries ripe.
2) Two seasons ago we had a fall mast crop failure, which meant that few females gave birth to cubs the following season. This put most of females on the same birth year cycle. Last year the fall mast crop was good. Therefore, this season a very high percentage of females have cubs, which only adds to the stress of the food situation.
Diminished availability of food often results in increased visibility of bears in both the front and backcountry areas of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Here's what we all can do to be responsible users of our national park, and help protect park bears. Always remember- A fed bear is a dead bear. Let's make sure we don't contribute to bears becoming habituated to humans or our food and garbage.
- Keep campgrounds, picnic areas, parking lots, and roadside pullouts clean and litter free.
You can help by reporting significant bear activity in our national park to the staff at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you observe any of the following behaviors while in the Park, please report them immediately to rangers or volunteers at Sugarlands Visitors Center, Oconaluftee Visitors Center, or Cades Cove Visitors Center-
1) any bear in a developed area (day or night) such as a campground, picnic area, backcountry campsite, horse camp, etc. BE SPECIFIC about the location or campsite.