On average the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sees over twelve million people a year, including your family! It's important to know how to respond when animal encounters happen. We have a few suggestions and links to provide education on these encounters.
1) Wear a whistle and carry bear spray. When walking outside periodically make noise so bears hear you coming if nearby. Typically, Black Bears will avoid you if they hear you are approaching.
2) Hike with others vs solo.
3) Be "bear aware". Meaning look around at your surroundings regularly; look high and look low. Bear (and other animals) can climb and may be in trees or high up on mountain ridges.
4) Keep dogs on leashes to avoid close-up confrontations.
Note: there's only 2 dog approved hiking trails in The GSM National Park. However, dogs are permitted at picnic areas and campgrounds in the National Park and if unleashed can easily run into the woods where a bear encounter may take place. Additionally, dogs are permitted at town parks, where Black Bears also will sometimes visit.
5) Be sure not to leave behind any food scraps or wrappers. "Carry in carry out". Meaning - You brought it in with you, take it back out with you when you leave, unless there are bear proof or locked garbage receptacles. Even the smallest of food scraps that seem harmless like Apple cores, for example, Should not be left On roadsides, on trails or in the woods. Doing so trains bears to keep coming back to these areas where there's a high likelihood to encounter humans.
3 TIPS on WHAT DO YOU DO IF YOU SEE A BLACK BEAR?
1) Don't Run! Black bears are mostly non-aggressive towards humans but are wild animals and there's no predicting for sure what they will do. Running could cause a triggered response for the bear to run after you.
2) If you're not in a threatened situation, enjoy the moment and slowly move away. The safe distance to enjoy viewing a bear or taking photos, is from 100 yards away, according to the National Parks safety standards.
Never get between a mother and the cubs! That cool, closeup Instagram video you're attempting to get could cost you or the bear its life! If a bear does become aggressive, sometimes the authorities will put the bear down.
3) If a bear is approaching and you DO feel threatened, you and everyone in your group should put your hands in the air, stand on a boulder if available, to appear bigger than the bear.
Wave your arms overhead, clap and call out aggressively to the bear telling it to "get out of here", blow your whistles and Maybe even get your bear spray ready. I've never had to use bear spray personally, but I do carry it, just in case. If you have small children with you, put them behind you or surrounded by the adults. DON'T lay down and play dead.
These are suggestions specifically for the Great Smoky Mountains area and Black Bears.
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