Everyone wants to see black bears when they visit the Great Smoky Mountains! These creatures are known as the unofficial mascot of the Smokies, and you’ll find black bear themed everything when you’re in town! But, how much do you know about these creatures? Here are 5 things you should know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains:
1. They are omnivores.
You may think black bears only eat meat, but they are actually omnivores! Black bears will eat berries, nuts, and plants, as well as fish and insects. About 85% of their diet is from plants, though.
2. They don’t actually hibernate.
You may be surprised to learn that black bears in the Smoky Mountains don’t actually hibernate! These creatures enter long periods of sleep during the winter, and they will occasionally get out and about if they are disturbed or if the weather turns warmer. Bears usually make dens out of hollow trees, caves, and other places where there is shelter.
3. Experts estimate about 1,500 black bears live in the Smokies.
Biologists who have studied the black bears in the Smokies estimate that there are about 1,500 black bears living in the national park. This number could be slightly higher or lower since it is just an estimation.
4. Bears can be seen at all elevations in the national park.
If you plan on exploring the national park, you might wonder if you could go somewhere that doesn’t have bears so you don’t disturb them. However, black bears in the Smoky Mountains can be found at all elevations in the national park, and even outside the park. You might see paw prints in the mud as you’re hiking at any elevation, and that’s why so many bear sightings happen in Gatlinburg and sometimes in Pigeon Forge!
5. They can almost double their weight in the fall.
Another interesting fact about black bears is that they can double their weight in the fall! Typically, a male black bear in the summer weighs around 250 pounds while a female weighs slightly over 100 pounds. To get ready for their long periods of sleep, black bears pack on the pounds and can almost double their weight! The largest black bear on record was 600 pounds!
More About Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains
Learning fun facts about black bears can be helpful, but what’s even more helpful is knowing what to do when you see a bear. Although attacks from bears are rare, these are still wild animals, and we want our guests to be as safe as possible.
If you see a black bear, do not approach it. It is illegal to be within 50 yards of a bear, but if you find yourself closer than that, slowly back away from the bear, especially if it makes noises or swats at the ground. Usually, black bears will leave people alone, but if it continues to walk towards you, you should make yourself big and loud. For even more information on what to do if you see a bear, check out the National Park Service’s black bear information.
Now you know more about black bears in the Smoky Mountains and how to react if you see them while you’re in the national park! We know visiting the park is at the top of your list of things to do on your next trip, but you may be trying to decide what else you want to do when you stay with us. Check out these other Pigeon Forge attractions you don’t want to miss!