black bear in the woods
November 8, 2021

Just about everyone who comes to the Smokies wants to see a black bear! They are known as the unofficial mascots of the area, and experts estimate about 1,500 live in the national park. You probably want to see at least one bear while you’re in town, but how much do you know about these beautiful creatures? Check out these 5 things you should know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains:

1. They don’t actually hibernate.

black bear in the smoky mountains

One of the most surprising things to learn about black bears is they don’t actually hibernate! Instead, the bears enter deep sleep for long periods of time. When cold weather is right around the corner, bears start looking for a den for the winter. These dens are usually in hollow trees, but they will take shelter anywhere.

2. They are the most active in the spring and summer.

Many people wonder when bears are the most active because they want to see black bears in the Smoky Mountains! These creatures are most active in the spring and summer months. For day to day activity, bears are usually seen early in the mornings or early in the evenings.

3. You’re most likely to see them in Cades Cove, Roaring Fork, or along a hiking trail.

black bear in cades cove

The next thing people visiting the Smokies want to know is where are you more likely to see black bears in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. One of the most popular places is Cades Cove because the open fields are surrounded by wooded areas, and the bears come out into the fields where people can spot them. Another place you’re likely to see bears is along Roaring Fork Motor Trail, and that’s because bears feel comfortable being surrounded by trees. Other densely wooded areas, like hiking trails, are places where you might see bears.

4. It’s illegal to be within 150 feet of black bears in the national park.

In the Great Smoky Mountains, it is illegal to be within 50 yards or 150 feet of black bears. It is also prohibited to do anything that displaces or disturbs a bear. If you are found guilty of breaking these laws, you could be charged $5,000 and six months in jail.

5. Black bears are omnivores.

black bear in the smoky mountains

Black bears in the Smoky Mountains eat both plants and meat, making them omnivores. Typically, bears eat berries and nuts, which make up 85% of their diet. Bears will also eat insects and animal carrion.

What to Do if You See Black Bears in the Smoky Mountains

You will probably be excited if you happen to see a bear while you’re in town, but we want you to be as safe as possible while observing these creatures. Here are the top safety tips we have for what you should do when you see a black bear:

  • If you find yourself too close, back away slowly.
  • Put as much distance as possible between you and the bear.
  • If the bear follows you, make sure it knows you are there by waving your arms and yelling loudly. Do not play dead.
  • Carry bear spray, a bear horn, or air horns to scare the bear away.
  • If there is food nearby, leave the food and back away slowly.

For even more tips on what to do if you encounter a bear, watch this video:

These are just some of the things you should know about black bears in the Smoky Mountains! We know you’ll have fun exploring in the national park while you’re in town, but are you trying to decide what else to do? Look through our Freedom Fun Pass to see which attractions you’ll get free tickets to when you stay in one of our cabins!