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.