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Black bears are the signature Smoky Mountain wildlife.

4 Smoky Mountain Black Bear Safety Tips You Need to Know

Seeing wildlife is one of the best parts about visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is one of the many reasons so many people choose to vacation in the mountains. About 1,600 black bears call the Smoky Mountains home! Spotting a black bear during your visit to the National Park is exciting, so we want to make sure you know the best ways to keep both you and the bears safe. Here are the most important Smoky Mountain black bear safety tips you need to know:

1. Stay at least 50 yards away.

Black bear hiding in the Smoky MountainsKeeping a safe distance from black bears is the most important thing to remember when you visit the Smoky Mountains. If you see a black bear, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park requires that you stay at least 50 yards away at all times. This is for both your safety and the bear’s. Remember that you are in the bear’s home. You don’t want to crowd the bear and make it feel threatened in any way. Most bears don’t want to attack and are only interested in protecting food, cubs and their space. If you get closer than 50 yards, you could face fines or even arrest. To see the bears from a safe distance, the National Park recommends using binoculars or a spotting scope.

2. Do not feed the bears.

Feeding the bears is incredibly dangerous. Black bears are actually scared of humans, and feeding them causes them to lose that sense of fear. Their behavior then becomes unpredictable and can lead to possible attacks. If you have food with you, make sure to keep it secured at all times and never leave it unattended.

A black bear crossing the road.3. Identify yourself to the bear.

If you see a bear and it notices you, make sure to speak calmly and identify yourself so it knows you’re a human and not a prey animal. Waving your arms slowly may help the bear recognize you as a human. It may come closer to get a better look or smell, but it’s important to stay calm and stand your ground. If you scream or make any sudden movements, it can trigger an attack.

4. Don’t run from the bear.

Never run from the bear. Bears don’t want to attack you. Most of the time they just want to be left alone. If a bear is staying still, move away slowly and sideways. Moving sideways allows you to keep an eye on the bear, and it’s also a non-threatening movement to bears. If you run from the bear, it will most likely chase you. Bears can move as fast as a racehorse both uphill and down.

Best Spots to See Smoky Mountain Black Bears

A black bear cub in the Smoky Mountains.If you are really hoping to spot a bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, one of the best places to go is Cades Cove. They are most visible in Cades Cove in the early mornings and late evenings. This 11-mile loop road allows you to safely view the bears from the comfort of your car! Though Cades Cove is one of the most popular places to see black bears, you have the chance to see them anywhere throughout the park.

Keep these tips in mind when you visit for the safety of both you and the Smoky Mountain black bears! Find out more information about how to safely view wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and start planning your visit today!