Winter Road Status
During winter, roads in the park may close due to snow and ice, especially at night when water from melting refreezes on roads. For road status information please call (865) 436-1200 ext. 631 or follow road updates at http://twitter.com/SmokiesRoadsNPS. More »
NPS Profile: Keeping our bears wild
NPS historic photo.
In the early days of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, rangers gauged bear management success by the number of visitors injured each year. People bitten by bears weren’t the only ones suffering from this contact: bears learned to connect humans to food, and approached people in campgrounds and picnic areas. In some years, dozens of “nuisance” bears that had invaded human space were moved or even killed.
Gradually, as attitudes throughout the park service changed, it became clear that management needed to shift from being reactive (managing bears after a problem) to proactive (managing bears and people prior to problems). While it was easy to blame nuisance bears on visitors feeding them (and many in the Smokies still did, often through chain link fences installed on backcountry shelters), the issue was bigger than that.
Other factors in bear problems included unclear rules about (or consequences for) feeding bears, trash piled next to overfilled trash cans, food scraps left in fire rings, and visitors who left picnic goodies unattended on tables. This wasn’t acceptable to managers; as biologist Kim Delozier said, “If we have to move or kill a bear, we’ve failed” somewhere along the line in not preparing for possible problems. Wildlife management in the Smokies was about to change.
Go to page 2: a bear management success story at Chimneys Picnic Area.
Did You Know?
An experimental program to reintroduce elk to the park was begun in 2001. Elk once roamed the Smokies, but were eliminated from the region in the mid 1800s by over-hunting and loss of habitat. Other animals successfully reintroduced to the park include river otters and barn owls. More...