Oh Those Bears!

Oh Those Bears!

Oh Those Bears!Seeing a bear is definitely a thrill! Not so much the, “Aww, what a cute fuzzy animal!” thrill. More the strange, awe-inspiring combination of, “What a beautiful, majestic animal!” and “Wow! I could’ve been killed!” If that’s the kind of thrill you’re looking for, search no further than the Great Smoky Mountains! They’ve been known to even come down into town and visit the candy shop, make house calls (or cabin calls), or pass by the cabin rental office (yes, ERA In The Smokies, the one that sponsors this blog), but to have the best chance of glimpsing one, visit their natural habitat: The Great Smoky Mountains National Forrest!This bear crossed the road in front of our office, as you can see!

Bears on the Abrams Falls TrailThe bears are, in fact, so active right now, that certain areas of the park have been shut down to cut down risk of attack. No attacks have yet been reported this year, but there was a man who reported that a bear followed him for quite a while as he rode his bike, even though the man was trying to move away. This is most unusual behavior for bears, as they are usually afraid of humans, and prefer to avoid us. A couple of years ago, when I was naive and reckless, I went hiking by myself on the Abrams Falls Trail in Cades Cove fairly early in the morning, about 8am. The trail was nearly deserted, and as I hiked along in solitude, I looked up and saw a mama bear and her cubs up the hill a bit. Even as my heart jumped into overdrive, I calmly continued my walk down the trail. Thankfully I was already headed in the opposite direction as the bears, but if I had been going the same direction, I would have turned around, even if it meant cutting my hike short. That mama bear behaved as a normal bear, and gave no sign that she even noticed my presence, but continued on her way.

What should you do if you encounter a bear? Well, we know you want to take a picture, but please consider your safety and the bear’s needs first. The National Park has the following recommendations: “If you see a bear remain watchful. Do not approach it. If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.)-you’re too close. Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don’t run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Try to increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.

Close Encounters of the Bear Kind“If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting, change your direction. If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground. If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it. Act aggressively to intimidate the bear. Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground). Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear. Use a deterrent such as a stout stick. Don’t run and don’t turn away from the bear. Don’t leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.”

2010 Bear Photo Contest Winners!The following areas are currently closed due to aggressive bear activity: Spence Field Shelter, Backcountry Campsites 13,18, 21, 113, and Bull Head Trail. Areas with merely a warning include: Appalachian Trail for Shuckstack to Doe Knob, Curry Mountain Trail, Gregory Bald Trail, Laurel Falls Trail, Icewater Spring Shelter, and Backcountry Campsite 24. Cades Cove is also known for being the site of tons of bear sitings. We’ve even seen pictures that people were able to take from their cars, sometimes of a bear crossing the road just in front of or behind them.

These bears were caught in the hot tub of our cabin Chipmunk Haven!Another way to see a bear is to rent a cabin. ERA in the Smokies usually receives several reports each year from guests and staff alike that bears have been viewed at the cabins. Sometimes only their handiwork is encountered, however! They do like to try to dig in the trash!

ERA In The SmokiesThis 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.

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WILDlife!

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The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a vital sanctuary for a wide variety of animals. Around 65 species of mammals, over 200 species of birds, 50 native fish species and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians can be found in the park. Some of the most commonly seen animals include the white-tailed deer, groundhog, chipmunk, black bear and some other squirrel and bat species. Of the 200 species of birds, 85 of those species migrate from the neotropics. Over 700 miles of streams, creeks and rivers support the fish populate here in the Smokies and the park has been able to reintroduce some of the native species that has been eliminated in past years. Climatic and geographic factors make a perfect combination for the variety of 30 salamander species found in the park. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most diverse places in the world for salamanders, so you are lucky to see one!Pileated WoodpeckerPolliwogs, Eggs & Singing Frogs

Red Squirrel

Unfortunately, many species have become threatened and endangered such as:

  • Indiana Bat
  • Carolina Northern Flying Squirrel
  • Red-cockaded Woodpecker
  • Spot-fin Chub
  • Duskytail Darter
  • Smoky MadamThere are approximately 2 bears per square mile in the National Park!
  • Yellowfin Madtom
  • Spruce-fir moss Spider
  • Eastern Small-footed Bat
  • Watershrew
  • Appalachian Cottontail
  • Henslow’s Sparrow
  • Olive-sided Flycatcher
  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Red Crossbill
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Golden-winged Warbler
  • Eastern Hellbender
  • Seepage Salamander
  • Junalusica Salamander
  • Olive-darter
  • Tennessee Dace

The park staff is continually working on making sure the environment for these particular species is accommodating to their individual needs, however, visitors to the park must be aware of these endangerments and be respectful of the native species surrounding them.

Viewing wildlife in the Smokies can be a challenge as most of the park consists of dense forest. Wildlife is often seen in the Cataloochee and Cades Cove areas. Animals can be seen while taking hikes in the park as well. Many animals are most active at night and morning, so these are the best times to catch a glimpse of the wonderful wildlife in the Smokies. It’s also a good idea to bring binoculars and scan the trees for wildlife as well.

Beloved Black Bears

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Even though they look cute and cuddly, black bears are wild animals and are dangerous and unpredictable. While visiting the Great Smoky Mountains please do not approach the bears or allow them to approach you and do not feed them! “Panhandler” bears, who have had access to human food and garbage only live half of their normal life expectancy. Not to mention, you can be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced to six months in jail for feeding bears and improper food storage. Many areas around the country are rapidly developing to accommodate more housing. Because of their loss of habitat in North America, black bears are now confined to wooded areas or dense brush land. In the Smokies, you can often see a black bear in the Cades Cove area and many other areas in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Ober Gatlinburg also has a black bear exhibit containing bears.

About Black Bears

Black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains are black in color, but in other parts of the country they can be brown or cinnamon in color.  These creatures can grow up to six feet in height standing. A male black bear usually weighs about 250 pounds, while the female black bear generally weighs just over 100 pounds. However, by the fall, black bears can double their weight preparing for the winter months. This has been observed by the park staff as the black bears in this area have been documented weighing over 600 pounds. Wild black bears can live anywhere from 12 to 15 years. Unfortunately, because humans can be careless, these precious creatures sometimes do not live out their life expectancy because they are made to live on berries and when they eat trash it puts toxins in their bodies. black bear

Bears are most active during the early morning and late evening hours in spring and summer. Black bears can run up to 30 miles per hour, swim very well and also climb trees. They will often mark trees with their teeth and claws as a form of communication with other bears. Bears in the Smokies often make their dens at higher elevations in hollowed out trees. They enter dens in October and November and hibernation usually lasts between 3 to 5 months. A special hormone, leptin is released into the black bear’s systems, to suppress appetite. Because they do not urinate or defecate during dormancy, the nitrogen waste from the bear’s body is biochemically recycled back into their proteins. This also serves the purpose of preventing muscle loss, as the process uses the waste products to build muscle during the long periods of inactivity.

Safety Around Black Bears

Black bear attacks on humans are very rare. Between 1900 and 2007, only 60 people were killed in black bear attacks across North America. However, if you do find yourself in an aggressive encounter with a black bear, you should fight back with any object available weather it be a stick, a rock or even your shoe. The bear may be considering you as prey so you want to let it know that you are dangerous to them. Please report all black bear incidents immediately to a park ranger or the park service. Here are a few tips to better protect yourself from a dangerous black bear situation:

  1. When camping, never cook or store food in or near your tentbear_picnic_table
  2. Hang food and other items with strong odors (ie, toothpaste, bug repellent, soap, etc.) out of reach of bears. Hang items at least 10 ft above the ground and. If no trees are available, store your food in airtight or bear-proof containers
  3. Change your clothing before you go to sleep; don’t wear what you cooked in to go to bed and be sure to store smelly clothing along with your food/smelly items
  4. Keep the area clean. Be sure to wash dishes, dispose of garbage, and wipe down tables
  5. Burn garbage completely in a hot fire and pack trash out – don’t bury it
  6. Don’t surprise bears. If you’re hiking, make your presence known. Make noise by talking loudly, singing, or wearing a bell
  7. If you can, travel with a group. Groups are noisier and easier for bears to detect
  8. Keep in mind that bears tend to be more active at dawn and dusk so plan your hikes accordingly
  9. Stay on marked trails and obey the regulations of the area you’re hiking/camping in
  10. If you’re hiking in bear country, keep an eye out for tracks, scat, digs, and trees that bears have rubbed

Groundhog Day 2013 and Winter Activities

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Check out groundhog.org!Our favorite groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, says we are going to have an early spring this year. As exciting as that is, let’s enjoy winter while we can! In an effort to encourage you to take advantage of the remaining winter weather, we thought we would remind you (and ourselves) of all the great things to do in the Smoky Mountains during the winter.

Play in the Snow!1. Play in the Snow. We know this one is obvious, but we couldn’t very well neglect to mention it, could we? What happens if you get to Gatlinburg…and it snows? Well, you play in it, of course. What happens if you were hoping for snow and don’t see any when you get here? Well, you have to find the snow. Snowfalls of an inch or more occur on average only one to five times per year in the valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains although Gatlinburg has already had two of these snowfalls in December alone. In the high country, over five feet of snow falls most years. For all the best places to play in the snow, visit our snow post.

See Rainbow Falls!2. Tour the Waterfalls. Winter can be the best time for enjoying waterfalls. Waterfall flows are higher because of greater amounts of snow and rainfall. In addition, there is less uptake by forest plants. Waterfall views and opportunities for photography also improve after the trees have dropped their leaves. Visit our winter waterfall post for some of our favorites.

Where have all the black bears gone?3. Take in the Wildlife. 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. What wildlife other than bear and dear might you see? Otter, bob-cat, red fox, gray fox, mink, red squirrel, coyote, and lots of birds. Visit our winter wildlife post for all the details.

Ski at Ober Gatlinburg!4. Skiing Anyone? Ober Gatlinburg offers 8 ski trails serviced by two quad and one double chairlift which keeps you out of lift lines and on the slopes. When temperatures drop, their snow-making equipment blankets 100% of there slopes. Slopes are maintained with the latest in snow-grooming equipment to provide a smoother, more consistent surface creating enjoyable skiing conditions. For more information on skiing in Gatlinburg, visit our Let’s Go Skiing post.

Winter Wildflowers!!5. Winter Wildflowers. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park hosts approximately 100 species of plants that are restricted to a single region of the park. Many of these species are only found in the southern Appalachian Mountains, but some have been documented only inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Think wildflowers only bloom in the Spring? Visit our wildflower post to find flowers year ’round.

ERA In The SmokiesSo never fear…you can always find something to do in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains even in the dead of winter.

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.

Wilderness Wildlife Week 2013

Wilderness Wildlife WeekThe 23rd Annual Wilderness Wildlife Week will be Jan 12 – 19 in Pigeon Forge, at the Music Road Hotel & Convention Center. This is a GREAT event for the whole family, and it’s all free!! “The theme of Wilderness Wildlife Week™ in Pigeon Forge, involves a continuous thread of wholesome, family oriented, tasteful integrity beginning with the originators and continuing throughout every presentation and excursion associated with the event. It is a constant aim and commitment that Wilderness Wildlife Week™ proceeds and succeeds as an event of the highest standards and principles and that it be obvious to every participant that this is a safe, encouraging and giving event.” This event includes tons of workshops and lectures, more than 40 guided walks and hikes, and even a photography contest! Don’t miss out!

Read More About Fall Color In The SmokiesYou can view pages and pages of the amazing workshops and lectures available! Here are just a few of the ones that look interesting to me, just to get you a little excited too!

Discovering October Roads
Sat, Jan 12, 1:00pm – 2:00pm
View Fall Colors of East Tennessee

Beginning Mountain Dulcimer
Sat, Jan 12, 10:00am – 12:00pm
Must Pre-register

Read More About Wildflowers In The SmokiesWildflowers of the Smokies
Mon, Jan 14, 11:30am – 12:30pm

Introduction to Bluegrass Dancing
Tues, Jan 15, 3:30pm – 4:30pm

The Iron Works and the Forge- Pigeon Forge’s Namesake
Tues, Jan 15, 4:00pm – 5:00pm
Join Jerry Wear as he discusses the manufacturing of iron in Pigeon Forge around 1820. This early industry is almost unimaginable in today’s bustling vacationing resort town.

We Love Cades Cove!

APPALACHIAFEST!- A Free Musical Celebration of Our Heritage
Smoky Mountain Inhabitants and Their Music
Tues, Jan 15, 5:00pm – 6:30pm
Of Home and Hearth
Tues, Jan 15, 6:45pm – 7:45pm
Carolina Bluegrass Boys with clogging from the Appalachian Cloggers
Tues, Jan 15, 8:00pm

Introduction to Tracking People in the Outdoors
Thurs, Jan 17, 8:00am – 11:00am

Wild Ones Among Us
Wed, Jan 16, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Bears, Bears, Bears!!Bears, Boars and Bulls: A Wild Life in the Smokies!
Thurs, Jan 17, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Their lives and interactions with humans

Famous Searches/Rescues of the Great Smoky Mountains
Fri, Jan 18, 8:00am – 11:00am
Study some of the Smokies’ most famous search & rescue operations

For detailed information on all the wonderful things available as a part of the Wilderness Wildlife Week, visit their site!

ERA In The SmokiesThis 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.

Happy Thanksgiving

Subscribe to A Day In The Smokies!!Well, Thanksgiving is in just a couple days, so we wanted to share some of the things, related to the Smokies, that we are most thankful for!

Rent A Cabin With a Mountain View!!The Great Smoky Mountains!
Who wouldn’t want to be here in the Great Smoky Mountains! It is certainly a joy to live here, and to share them with all of you! Whether you’re driving through Pigeon Forge and seeing them over the next hill, or driving right up in them to spend a day enjoying their beauty first hand, those Great Smoky Mountains hold a piece of our hearts!

Find Summer Activities!!A Great Summer!
We are so thankful for a great summer! Tons of people came to enjoy the mountains and all the wonderful attractions here! Swimming, waterfalls, Splash Country, walking the Parkway, enjoying the ice cream from across the street after a great game of mini-golf! This summer was full of great times and wonderful memories!

Find Fall Activities!!A Gorgeous Fall!
The fall has been another wonderful time of year! Many of you came to enjoy the mountains as they donned their glorious splendor of reds, oranges, and golds! Hiking, Zip-lining, Dollywood, shopping! The fall was full of fun for us all!! Don’t forget to come back next fall!

See some of our favorite bear pictures!The Bears!
We are thankful indeed for the bears! What amazing creatures they are! And so many of you have enjoyed coming and catching those hoped-for glances of bears! The bears have been more active than ever this year. They seem to enjoy doing their best to rip up our trash cans! And if that doesn’t work, for some reason they seem to enjoy our hot tubs almost as much as you do!

Read about the elk!Other Wildlife!
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to “some 66 species of mammals, over 200 varieties of birds, 50 native fish species, and more than 80 types of reptiles and amphibians.” Some of our favorites include the elk, the salamanders, and the synchronous fireflies! A couple of the best places to view these include Cades Cove and the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail!

Find Kid-friendly attractions!So Much To Do!
There is so much to do and to enjoy here in the Smokies! When each season comes, I find myself looking forward to that season’s unique benefits, and thinking to myself, this is the BEST time to come to the Smokies!! Whether it’s Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall, NOW is the BEST time to come!

Find pictures from previous tournaments, and information about our next tournament!A Great Golf Benefit!
This year we had a wonderful time at our 14th Annual ERA for MDA Golf Benefit, in which we were able to raise over $10,000 to send local Muscular Dystrophy kids to a camp where they can experience life without limits! We enjoyed two great meals, a wonderful golf game, and a hilarious auction, all of which raised money for MDA!

People here are so friendly! Why not move here!Friendly Neighbors!
One of the things I enjoy most about this area is the people! They are so loving and friendly! You may think that those of us who live here are resentful of tourists, but quite the contrary! It’s because of our honored guests that are we are able to make a living, and enjoy living here in the beautiful Smokies!! So the people are friendly to locals and tourists alike!

Awesome Customers!
We are so thankful for all our awesome customers! It is our joy to help you have the most wonderful experience possible when you come to the Smokies! We are especially thankful for all of you who keep coming back and invite your friends!

Happy Thanksgiving! Don’t forget to count your blessings!

ERA In The SmokiesThis 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.

Do Black Bears Hibernate?

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!
Find more information about Smoky Mountain Bears at the National Park's website!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!
For more information about the hiberbation of Black Bears, check out this PBS article!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!

ERA In The SmokiesThis 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.