The last of Dogwood Winter seems to have faded, and the Great Smoky Mountains are on the verge of bursting into green plumage so bright it almost hurts the eyes–the final salute to the returning Black Bears. Black bears with cubs born in January often leave their winter den in late March or early April. They are most active in early morning and late evening hours, but in Gatlinburg it isn’t uncommon to see a bear run across the East Parkway in the middle of the day.
The wonder of seeing an American Black Bear still startles me. I dislike cleaning up mess when they’ve found an accessible dumpster or unprotected garbage can, but I find myself smiling all the while. And while no one who has ever had to replace a car window because they left food in the their car while hiking is happy about the cost of glass repair, most will tell you they feel privileged to share the same space.
Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains host many great places for bear sightings. At short road trip to Cades Cove offers families an inexpensive day trip full of free historical tours and nature watching. Bear sightings while shopping are not uncommon in the Smoky Mountains Arts & Crafts District. And if you just want to sit on the deck of your cabin and hope a bear ambles by, check out Bear’s Den or Great Escape for likely bear adventures.
Don’t forget, ERA In The Smokies is hosting a Bear Picture Contest. Enter before June 30, 2009 to be entered into the drawing for a FREE Two-Night Stay in Gatlinburg! Keep sending your pictures, and we’d like to say a special “Thanks” to Katrina Crutchett for her great Bear Picture Contest entries used in this post.
As much as we love our black bears, we want to remind you–Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear, is illegal in the park. Violation of this federal regulation can result in fines and arrest. Use binoculars, telephoto lens, or a spotting scope to view the animals. For more information on what to do if you encounter a black bear, visit the GSMNP’s website.