Winter is one of the best times for wildlife viewing in the Smokies. Once the trees have shed their leaves, views into the forest are much longer. Wildlife like elk and deer are active for longer periods during the daylight hours because of the cooler temperatures.
Where are all the bears? Wildlife biologists estimate that over 1,500 black bears live in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is a density greater than two bears per square mile. However, from mid-December until mid-March most bears are in their winter dens. These dens may be located high above the ground in cavities within old-growth trees, or in shallow excavations beneath boulders or tree root balls.
Black bears do not truly hibernate, though they do not eat or drink for most of the winter. Occasionally they will stir from their dens and wander around, especially during warmer weather. Cubs are born in January or February and weight less than a pound.
Where can I go to see elk? Elk were reintroduced in the Smokies in 2001 and 2002. Since that time, their numbers have grown to over 100.
By far the best place to see elk is Cataloochee Valley, though it requires some travel on a narrow, winding road which may be closed because of snow.
The 2nd best place to see elk is between Oconaluftee Visitor Center & Smokemont Campground, located along Newfound Gap Road. Male elk generally keep their impressive antlers at least through February.
Where can I see deer? Cades Cove is the best place to see white-tailed deer all year. Some folks count over 100 as they drive the 11-mile Cades Cove Loop. Other places to view deer are Elkmont, Sugarlands & Deep Creek areas. Males usually keep their antlers until early spring. NOTE: Cades Cove Loop Road will close on March 1st for paving & repairs.
What other wildlife might we see? Otter (especially around Cades Cove and Abrams Creek), bob-cat, red fox, gray fox, mink, red squirrel, coyote, and lots of birds.
Special thanks to the Smokies Guide, official newspaper of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for providing the winter update.
This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more info. on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 1-800-309-0277. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.