Black Bear Safety in the Great Smoky Mountains

What To Know

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Black Bear Safety in the Great Smoky Mountains

What To Know:

Traveling down any mountain road in the Great Smokies, you are likely to encounter a sign similar to the one above. The Great Smoky Mountains are home to many wild animals, including the black bear. Encounters–which may happen at your rental, on the road, or in the wild–can be exciting for tourists who aren’t used to seeing such exotic wildlife up close. However, encounters also hold risks–especially for hikers–and though black bears are generally peaceful and want to be left alone, if they feel threatened or have a cub nearby, they may become aggressive. That’s why it is important for all hikers to plan their excursions in groups when considering Black Bear Safety in The Great Smoky Mountains.

Black Bear Safety In The Great Smoky Mountains

Tips For Black Bear Safety In The Great Smoky Mountains

If you do find yourself unexpectedly confronted by a black bear in the wild and can’t get to your bear pepper spray (yep, it is a thing), here are some things to keep both you and this indigenous species safe.


  • First and foremost, stay calm. Don’t panic.
  • Speak in a calm tone to avoid startling the bear and to identify yourself as a human and not prey. Black bears generally do not want to interact with humans and will often leave an area if they become aware of your presence, but loud noises–such as growling, yelling, or screaming–may incite the bear to react defensively.
  • Pick up small children.
  • Make yourself appear larger by raising your arms above your head and waving them (no, seriously), or moving to higher ground. If the bear stands, it may be out of curiosity and not aggression, so continue to stay calm.
  • Slowly back away while facing the bear, keeping your eyes on it. Do not run, as this may trigger the bear’s instinct to chase.
  • If the bear charges, it may be a ruse to get itself out of the situation safely. It may charge, then suddenly turn back as a way of escape.
  • If the bear makes physical contact with you, do not play dead. Fight back, focusing your blows on the nose and muzzle. At the first opportunity, immediately flee to a safer area such as a building or vehicle.


  • Do not approach or feed bears. This can habituate them to human presence and make them more likely to become aggressive.
  • Do not climb a tree, as black bears are excellent climbers.
  • Do not run or turn your back on the bear, as this may trigger its predatory instinct to give chase.

Consider These Final Thoughts On Black Bear Safety In The Great Smoky Mountains

Remember, your stay in the Great Smoky Mountains will be a magical experience–and your encounter with a black bear will most probably be, too–but it is important to know what to do if you, in turn, spark their curiosity.

For more information on Black Bear Safety in The Great Smoky Mountains, go to the National Park Service, “Staying Safe Around Bears”:

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