Black Bears are amazing creatures, and perhaps the most well-known and beloved creatures here in the Smoky Mountains! They have certainly been very active this summer, digging into our guests’ trash cans, joining us for a few hikes, making visits to our office, posing for pictures, and generally making themselves known! There is actually an alert on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Website for increased black bear activity, so our bears are definitely not ready to take their winter naps yet. But Fall is here, and it’s about time for people to start asking: “Don’t Bears hibernate?” Yes! … and then again, not completely!
Their preparation for winter begins in the summer, when they gorge themselves on berries and other high-carb foods to put on weight. Not only does this store up nutrients to enable them to survive the winter months, but it also provides a thick layer of fat to insulate their bodies against the cold. A Black Bear can survive up to 100 days without food, water, exercise, defecating, or urinating! And we can’t last more than 3 days without water! Truly black bears are amazing!
When it’s cold enough, they find a small den to squeeze into! Usually they find a burrow, cave, hollowed out tree, or rock crevice to make their den out of. They like to have a tight fit! Dens are usually 2.5-5 feet wide and 2-3 feet high!
So, in a manner of speaking, bears do, or can hibernate! But then, they sleep lightly, especially compared to some other animals that hibernate and don’t budge the whole winter! They can be awakened by approaching animals or humans, and also have been known to get up and move about if a warm spell hits.
In Gatlinburg, we have an unfortunately high amount of “panhandler” bears- bears who have had access to human foods and garbage. These bears are less likely to sleep all winter, although they may slip in and out of long-ish winter naps. They still come down into town every once in a while to raid the trash cans.
Although the bears are beautiful and amazing creatures, remember that “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.” Feeding bears, and approaching bears… KILLS bears. Not only does it contribute to making them less able to survive in the wild, it also makes them too familiar with humans, which significantly raises the danger that they would get too close, and perhaps even attack. And bears that have attacked humans often have to be put down.
Just remember to respect them, and they will respect you!
This blog is sponsored in part by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg, TN. For more information 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.