Meeting a Bear in the Smokies: What to Do

December 26, 2008

With the Smokies in my backyard, I know how easy it is to stumble upon a bear’s domain. It’s so important that guests in the Smokies understand that the mountains serve as the home of the bear–and the bear looks at humans as the intruders, not vice-versa. If you are camping in the Smokies, you should know that bears in the Park are wild. While they may look cute and cuddly, they aren’t. It’s true that bear attacks in the Smokies are rare, but they have occurred. If you cross paths with an angry bear, here are some guidelines that can help you stay in control and come out alive.

Do not approach any bear that you see. If you see a bear and he stops what he is doing, the chances are high that he has also seen you. This means that you are too close. Slowly start to back away from the bear while keeping an eye on him. Put as much distance between you and the bear as possible.

Angry Bear - Photo by Lara Schneider

Angry Bear - Photo by Lara Schneider

If the bear starts to follow you, but he isn’t acting aggressive, change your direction by walking backwards. If the bear continues to follow you after you’ve changed your route, stand still. If he continues to come closer, begin shouting at him. Act as aggressive as possible. This has been known to intimidate bears and make them run off. The most important thing you can remember is to never run or turn your back on a bear.

If the bear is still trailing you, make yourself seem as large as possible. You can do this by moving to higher ground, or standing on something such as a large rock. If the bear continues to approach after you have tried to intimidate him with your voice and acting large, begin to throw non-food objects at him. This can include rocks. If possible, find a large stick to hold. It can help you fight off the bear if he should continue to approach.

If the bear begins to act aggressive and you have food on your person, the chances are very high that he smells it. Drop the food, back away, and put as much distance between you and your food as possible. Many times the bear will stop focusing on you, stop at the food, and start investigating it.

If the bear ignores the food and continues to come after you and you are physically attacked, fight back as much as you can. Use anything you can to fight off the bear, like large sticks and rocks. Scream and holler at the bear. Make as much noise as possible. Not only can this scare the bear, it can also alert others to your predicament.

While bear attacks in the Smokies are somewhat rare, they do happen. During the summer of 2008, a child was attacked by a black bear in the Smokies. His father fought him off, the child ran away, and the bear followed and attacked the child again. After taking a severe beating from the father, the bear eventually ran off. The bear was tracked and found by park officials and put down.

Knowing what to do in the event of an attack can help you survive. Remember, never turn your back on a bear, and if it comes down to it, fight the bear with everything in your power. Heeding these two tips can mean the difference between life and death.

Play with Your Food

December 8, 2008
Filed under: Nature

Eating in the great outdoors can be a challenge. Storing your food, keeping it cold and away from all the nosy little creatures is often more trouble than it’s worth. But eating on a camping trip can be quick, simple and still very tasty.

Buy a few essentials before hitting the road. Simple, everyday kitchen items such as aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and paper plates make meals on the go a breeze. Be sure to pick up a few garbage bags, too, in order to keep your campsite as tidy as you found it.

Pick up simple food items. Deli meats and cheeses keep well in a cooler full of ice, and fresh fruits and vegetables stay edible for days as long as they are cool. Canned chili, beans and soups also make for quick, easy and affordable camp meals.

Cook simple meals while you’re camping. After all, it is supposed to be a relaxing experience. If you like fish, put your pole to good use. Clean and fillet your fresh catch and lay it on a large section of foil. Add in a bit of onion, lemon, and a few veggies, and season lightly. Wrap the ends of the foil up and place it directly over your fire. In 20 minutes, you’ll have the freshest food in the entire camp.

Sweet treats can also be simply accomplished over an open flame. Roll out a large sheet of foil on a flat surface. Add a layer of graham crackers on the foil, add a piece of your favorite chocolate (dark, milk or white work equally well), squish a marshmallow atop the chocolate, and finish off with another cracker. Cover with another piece of foil and heat until melted. For a festive holiday touch, crumble up a candy cane and add a bit to your S’mores.

Camping is a relaxing, enjoyable experience, and eating should follow suit. Keep it simple – eat, relax and enjoy!

Smoky Mountains Camping: Please Respect the Black Bear

October 13, 2008
Filed under: Nature
Black Bear

Black Bear

It never ceases to amaze me how brave and daring people act when they see a bear in the Smokies. This past summer my family and I were driving through Cades Cove when traffic came to a halt. There was an enormous male black bear about six feet from the road. He was paying no mind to the gawking humans as he pawed around on a downed log.

I’ll be honest, I’ve lived in the foothills of the Smokies my entire life and I’ve never seen a bear this large. I know he was every bit of 500 pounds. I’m sure the bears nonchalant attitude stoked the bravery of tourists, but I was horrified to see so many people getting out of their cars—some with cameras and children in tow.

Living in this area has given me a large respect for black bear. The black bear population is so dense in the Smokies that many experts predict there are about two bear per every square mile. You never know when you may be in a bears domain—so do as I do. Consider every inch of the Smokies bear domain and understand that we are the trespassers, not the bears.

Black bears aren’t just on the ground, either. They like to climb trees and they can swim. They could be any where at any time. Black bears can run at speeds of 30mph. So, come on Smoky Mountain campers—do you really think you are safe standing 50 yards away from a bear clicking away on your digital cameras? Stay in your cars! If you want a good picture invest in a camera that has a good zoom lens and take pictures from your rolled down windows.

I haven’t said all of this to scare tourists and campers away the Smokies, but if you’re going to visit, be smart! Luckily the bear we saw that day fled up the hill and life resumed as normal, but some people aren’t that lucky. I’ll post soon about what you should to do if you do happen to cross paths with a Smoky Mountain brown bear, as well as steps you can take to keep your camping area unfriendly to bears.

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