Bear Alert!


Black bears have been very active during this time of year here in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. With Summer coming to a close and Fall setting in, they are preparing for the upcoming Winter season. Some campsites and hiking trails are on High Alert for Bear sightings in the area. A few of these include Backcountry Campsites #10, #21, #60, #63, and #92, Mt. LeConte shelter, Laurel Falls Trail, Abrams Falls, Ramsey Cascades Trail, Grotto Falls Trail, Forney Creek Trail, and Grapeyard Ridge Trail.

What do I do if I see a bear?

The National Park Service recommends that if you spot a bear to remain watchful and don’t approach the bear. Watch for changes in its behavior to ensure that you have not gotten too close. In this event you would walk backwards slowly, to let the bear know you bears-in-field_djbeckare giving it space. Once far enough you can resume your hiking – away from the bear. Black bear attacks come few and far between. Preventative measures are often the best way to avoid any sort of bear sighting or attack. This can be done by practice Leave No Trace principles, such as packing out trash or using proper trash bins, disposing of food and waste properly, minimizing your impact on the environment, and hanging your food away from your campsite.



If you would like the chance to ‘safely’ view a bear, try heading up to Cades Cove to drive through the Park and view some of the wildlife. Early morning sightings are more frequent, although we have found critters at all times of the day! The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is also frequented with wildlife and you may be able to catch a glance of one through the trees!


Of course you may even spot one in Downtown Gatlinburg! Garbage has been a big issue in the area. Black bear diets consist of nuts, berries, and insects. Being that Gatlinburg city borders the National Park, bears can get confused to the smells that
waft in from town. They will follow those smells to campsites, picnic areas, and bear_picnic_tablesometimes even businesses and houses! That is why it is so important to follow the guidelines set in place to control garbage problems. Just a reminder to never feed or leave food out for a bear or any other animals as it can cause that animal to be less fearful of humans and they will likely seek out more food. In fact, citations can be issued by park rangers trying to reinforce these guidelines, with fines up to $5,000 or even jail time.



But it’s almost Winter..don’t Black Bears hibernate?

Towards late Summer and early Fall black bears start storing food and can eat up to 30 pounds of it a week. Smoky Mountain black bears do hibernate, but not like many of other bears in different areas. They can go long periods of time without food, water, exercise, and using bodily functions. Bears will usually find a hollowed out tree or some other form of burrow to take refuge from the cold. They usually slumber through the Winter, but on warmer days some will wake and wander around. Their bodies release a chemical called leptin, which is used to curb their appetite and their metabolism rate drops to about 50% of the normal rate. Body temperature only drops by a few degrees, unlike black bears in the northern regions. Their hibernation period in the Smokies may not be as lengthy as black bears in Northern regions such as Alaska due to our short winters.


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This blog is sponsored by ERA In The Smokies Realty and Rentals located at 207 Parkway in Gatlinburg. For more information on a Gatlinburg Cabin for your Smoky Mountain Vacation or all the reasons to move to the Smokies, call 865-430-3366. ERA In The Smokies is a leader in chalet and Log Cabin Rentals and Real Estate Sales in the Gatlinburg area.



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Elk CalfOverall, wildlife biologists at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are delighted with the results of the experimental elk reintroduction in the Smokies.  Since 52 elk were released in Cataloochee Valley during 2001 and 2002, the park’s population has grown to nearly 100.

However, certain individual elk do occasionally cause Park biologists some consternation.  A prime example would be bull elk #81.

Bull ElkAlthough Park staff always expected and hoped the elk herd would disperse, bull elk #81 has taken range expansion to an extreme.

Elk #81 has been making extended forays across the mountain range for four consecutive years now.  These sojourns have included visits to Cosby, TN and the Greenbrier area of the Park near Gatlinburg, TN.Wildlife abounds in Gatlinburg! Residents of rural areas outside the park have excitedly communicated with the park staff as to #81’s latest wanderings.

A family near Newport, TN  looked out their back window to discover that a bull had gotten his antlers tangled in chains of their children’s swing set.  Rangers had to tranquilize the 600 pound animal and physically disentangle  from the chains to prevent injury.  The elk population is growing!Rangers then kindly gave him a lift back to Cataloochee Valley.

Park biologists believe the elk population will continue to gradually go.  And, there are more female elk of reproductive age now than atBull Elk antlers can grow to 5' wide! any time since the species was reintroduced to the Park.  Females generally give birth to one calf every year, usually in early June.  In 2008, at least 17 calves were born to Park cows.

Park officials don’t expect the elk population to expand too rapidly.  They believe predation on elk by black bears will ultimately restrict population growth.  They do expect the hear to continue to spread, though.  In fact, when #81 struck out from Cataloochee Valley earlier in 2009, he took a sidekick along with him–bull #105.

 ELK FACTS:Elk are herbivores!

  Adult males weigh 600 – 700 lbs, Cows 500 lbs.
Males have antlers that may reach a width of 5′.
Elk diet consists of grass, acorns, bark, leaves & buds.
Natural predators include coyotes and bobcats–while black bears may kill young, sick, or injured elk.
Elk calves weigh about 35 lbs. when born & stand in minutes.

Special thanks to the Smokies Guide, the official newspaper of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for providing the elk update.

Are you hoping to have a wildlife encounter during your vacations?  These cabins have a history of wildlife encounters–mostly bears:

Bears in the Hot Tub! Sunset Ridge (bears in the trees)

Bear’s Den (bears stole a picnic lunch)

Chipmunk Haven (bears —see picture left)

Riverhaven (raccoons)

At the Top (bears in the trees)

Hillbilly Hilton (raccoons)

Water’s Edge (wild hogs)


Is there a topic you would like to see covered at A Day In The SmokiesEmail us!

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.