If someone mentions the Smoky Mountains, you probably think of the cities, fun attractions, and, of course, black bears! As the unofficial mascot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, several hundred black bears call this area home. How much do you know about these magnificent creatures though? Here are 5 things you need to know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains:
1. There are 1,500 black bears living in the national park.
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to the densest population of black bears in the United States. More black bears live within the national park than anywhere else in the country. There is an average of 1,500 black bears, which is about 2 bears every square mile.
2. They are omnivores.
You may think black bears in the Smoky Mountains only eat meat or only eat plants, but they actually eat both! Some of the foods bears eat the most include berries and nuts, such as acorns. As for protein, bears will eat insects and small animals, such as fish.
3. On average, they weigh between 100 and 250 pounds.
You may not think black bears look big, but they can actually grow to be fairly large. During the summer, the average male black bear can weigh up to 250 pounds, whereas a female can weigh around 100 pounds. When black bears are foraging for food in the fall, they can double their weight. Bears up to 600 pounds have been recorded in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
4. Black bears don’t actually hibernate.
This fun fact about black bears in the Smoky Mountains may surprise you, but they don’t actually hibernate! These creatures enter long periods of sleep in their den. Black bears typically make their dens in hollow stumps, tree cavities, or wherever there is shelter. The only time they will leave their den during the winter is when they are disturbed or during brief warming trends.
5. You can’t be within 50 yards of black bears.
In the national park, it is illegal to be within 50 yards, or 150 feet, of black bears. This is not only for your safety but also for the safety of the bears. If you realize you are closer than this distance to the bear, you should walk away slowly. If the bear follows you, make yourself loud and wave your arms to scare the bear off.
Where to Possibly See Bears
Since you know a little more about black bears in the Smoky Mountains, you probably are wondering where you can see them! Cades Cove is the most popular place where people see bears due to the surrounding ecosystem and abundance of food sources. Anywhere that is a highly wooded area, such as hiking trails or Roaring Fork Motor Trail, is another popular place where you might see black bears in their natural habitat.
Now you know more about black bears in the Smoky Mountains! You’re more prepared to head out and explore, but before you do, learn more about the Great Smoky Mountains National Park!