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What to Do if You See a Black Bear in the Smoky Mountains

bear in field
December 13, 2021

With over 500,000 acres within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there is plenty of space for American black bears to roam and explore. Most of the time, these bears are very docile creatures who spend their day sleeping and looking for food. However, it is still important to know exactly what to do if you come in contact with one of these animals. Here is what you should do if you see a black bear in the Smoky Mountains:

How to Handle Bear Encounters

The circumstances surrounding your encounter will determine how you should respond when you see a bear. For example, you should behave differently if you see a bear in the backyard of your cabin versus seeing one in the woods.

black bearIf you see a bear by your house or yard, you want to make as much noise as possible in order to scare the bear. Frighten the bear in any way you can, including shouting, banging pots and pans or honking a car horn. Make sure you’re maintaining a safe distance the whole time. After the bear has left, remove anything that would attract another, such as trash or pet food.

If you see a black bear in the Smoky Mountains you need to stand as still as possible so the animal doesn’t notice you. Do not approach the bear, and instead begin moving away slowly in the opposite direction. Make sure you’re not turning your back on the bear and you’re maintaining a visual as you walk away.

What to Do if a Bear Approaches You

On the rare occasion that the bear becomes aggressive and begins approaching you, there are a few safety tips to follow. First, stand your ground and do not run away from the bear. You want to make yourself look as big as possible by raising your hands, standing on something to make you taller or shouting at the bear.

If the bear begins to follow you, make sure you continue with the loud noises and get out your bear spray if you have it on hand. If the bear charges you, continue to stand your ground and remain calm. If the bear comes in contact with you, fight back with wherever you have available. Do not play dead, black bears are scavengers and this will not sway them.

How to Use Bear Spray

It’s always important to carry bear spray with you if you’re planning on hiking, fishing or camping in the Smokies. You’ll only need to use the spray if the bear approaches you within 50 feet. Follow a few simple steps when using your bear spray.

  1. Remove the safety cap. This will often scare bears away.
  2. If the bear approaches closer, spray using both hands and aim at the bear’s head. Spray again if the bear continues to approach.
  3. If at all possible, spray the bear downwind so the cloud of ingredients doesn’t end up on you.
  4. Continue to monitor the bear after you’ve sprayed and do not turn your back to the animal. Once the bear retreats, begin moving slowly away in the opposite direction.

wild black bearFor more tips on what to do if you see a black bear, visit BearWise’s website and learn all about these animals that call the Smokies home.

Now that you know a little more about what to do if you see a black bear in the Smoky Mountains, you can hike, fish and camp with confidence knowing that you have all the knowledge to handle a bear encounter. Are you coming to Cades Cove in hopes to see bears? Learn more about our hours and pricing so you know when the best times to come are!

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