• Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the national park.

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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Predators missing from our food web

Dispatches from the Field > Missing species > Predators missing from our food chain

Northern Pine Snake

Northern pine snake.

Drawing by Tate T, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.

Northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus)

  • Status: Missing
  • Last seen in park: Unknown; possibly 2000
  • Species story: Like the red-cockaded woodpecker and fox squirrel, the northern pine snake depended on fire for an open forest understory habitat, but disappeared when fire was suppressed. Now that the park has reintroduced controlled burns, the pine snake’s habitat may return.


Drawing by Mandy H, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.

Fisher (Martes pennanti)

  • Status: Locally extinct
  • Last seen in park: late 1800s
  • Species story: In the Smokies, these relatives of weasels were trapped for their silky fur until they disappeared. About 30 years ago, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources reintroduced them to that state, and while the population has been spreading, it’s unknown if they will return to the Smoky Mountains.
Eastern cougar.

Eastern cougar.

Drawing by Chelsea A, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.

Eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar)

  • Status: Declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011
  • Last seen in park: 1920s
  • Species story: The Eastern cougar once roamed across the Southeast. As a top predator, it controlled deer, raccoon, and other animal populations. Nationwide, cougars were the most widely distributed animal in North America, living from southern Canada all the way to South America. Eastern cougars disappeared as people killed them and cities expanded into cougar habitat.

Did You Know?

Scientists estimate that 100,000 different species live in the park.

What lives in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Although the question sounds simple, it is actually extremely complex. Right now scientists think that we only know about 17 percent of the plants and animals that live in the park, or about 17,000 species of a probable 100,000 different organisms.