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

    Great Smoky Mountains

    National Park NC,TN

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  • Trail Advisory

    Several trails in the park are temporarily closed. Please check the "Backcountry Facilities" section of the Temporary Road and Facilities Closures page for further details. More »

Keep bears & your family safe

A pack, lunch bag, cooler, water bottle, bug spray and more are potential tasty treats to a bear.

Everything here--including the bug spray and food wrappers--can entice a bear. Keep your things with you, in a vehicle, or on a bear cable at all times.

NPS photo.

Keeping human food away from bears is the most important step we can take to keep bears—and ourselves—safe.

When you’re picnicking & hiking:

  • Always stay with your food when it’s outside your car—don’t leave a picnic, cooler, bag of trash, or backpack alone!
  • Pack it in, pack it out. Throw away all food scraps and wrappers in a bear-proof trash can or dumpster. You can find these at picnic areas, visitor centers, pullouts, and some trailheads
  • Make sure grills or fire rings are clear of trash—help a bear out & throw away any litter and food scraps you find, even if you didn’t leave them

When you’re backpacking in or through the park:

  • Check Backcountry Information Posters at all permit stations and visitor centers—these list backcountry sites closed due to bear activity, and sites/trails where you should use caution because bears have been active
  • When you pack, consider the “smelliness” of your food (and its packaging after the food is gone). Bears have a great sense of smell, and your can of sardines may be irresistible to them for days after you’ve dined
 
Tent after bear ripped it open searching for food.

A tent that a black bear found interesting. Make sure you hang all food and items with a scent.

NPS photo.

  • Consider packing all of your food in one bag inside your pack to contain smells, & to make hanging your food easy
  • Camp only at designated sites, where you’ll find bear cables
  • USE BEAR CABLES to hang your pack, food, & any other equipment whenever you aren’t using it
  • Cook, prepare food, & eat away from your tent/shelter
  • Pack it in, pack it out: double-bag all trash in sealed bags, & throw it away when you’re back in civilization
  • Make sure fire rings & shelter fireplaces are clear of trash—help a bear out & throw away any litter you find, even if you didn’t leave it

Always report bear activity such as bears approaching people, taking packs, begging for food, or acting aggressively to Park Rangers when you get back from your trip.

Return to Dispatches from the Field: Issue 3.

 

Did You Know?

Visitors can often spot bears in trees at the edges of forests.

Approximately 1,500 black bears live in the park. This equals a population density of approximately two bears per square mile. Bears can be found throughout the park, but are easiest to spot in open areas such as Cades Cove and Cataloochee Valley. More...