When backpacking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you have a good chance of seeing black bears. Biologists believe there are approximately 1,500 bears in the park—that’s about 2 bears per square mile. Seeing a black bear in it’s wild habitat is one of the most rewarding sights in the Smokies. While most of the time they are passive and want nothing to do with humans, bears are wild animals and therefore, unpredictable. If you see a bear in the back country, respect their space by:
- Staying at least 100 yards away—if your presence causes the bear to change it’s behavior, you are too close. A bear is more likely to react if it is stressed or feels intimidated.
- Remaining calm—if the bear is demanding more space by swatting the air or making loud noises, you must remain calm, and slowly back away from the bear, increasing the distance between you and the animal.
- Read all about safely hiking with bears in Great Smoky Mountain here.
Bear-proof cables are provided at all backcountry campsites for backpackers to hang their food and all scented items. It is essential that you hang your food correctly, because with bear’s keen sense of smell, they are very attracted to food odors, and it could ruin your trip, as well as the bear’s life if they get in to your food.