The Bear Facts

By Leif Palmer
Posted on June 1, 2018

This is the time of year when visitation to Great Smoky Mountains National Park sharply rises. School's out for the summer, and most folks plan their family vacations for this window of time. And people aren't the only creatures active in the national park. Bears are up from their winter slumbers and are living their lives within that same territory.

As such, human-bear interactions naturally increase this time of year, and it's important that if you plan to spend time in the national park, you know some of the do's and don'ts. Lately, there have been some high-profile instances of people interacting with bears that ultimately led to the animals having to be put down by park authorities. And it's really a shame, because human visitors were really the ones at fault.

A large group of park guests was recently seen surrounding an adult bear and getting much closer than the 150-foot boundary permitted by law. This type of behavior is disruptive to a bear's natural lifestyle, and these visitors made it worse by feeding it. That's one of the absolutely worst things you can do, because it's not healthy for the bears, and it makes them dependent on human food. It also makes them more likely to lose their natural fear of people and intrude on human spaces.

We would hope that common sense would also tell you that getting close to a wild animal like a bear is very dangerous for the human that does so. Wild bears are not petting zoo animals. If they feel threatened, they will defend themselves. And if that's not motivation enough, you should know that willfully approaching a bear within 50 yards is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a jail sentence of up to six months.

By the way, driving your vehicle into the national park can be handy, but for the times that you plan to spend in town, consider parking in one of our lots for the day and exploring the area on foot. You'll find our parking rates in Gatlinburg listed on this website.

Leif Palmer - Gatlinburg blogger

About Leif Palmer

Leif Palmer loves residing in Gatlinburg. He is an avid outdoorsman: rowing for exercise on the lake, trail hiking, and free climbing rocks in the mountains. He indulges his arty side by periodically beating up pieces of marble by sculpting. He is always frustrated by his inability to sink long putts, and hates his curly hair (but his wife loves it). Leif has been known to muster enough courage to change a diaper, and hopes his son will become a chip off the old block.


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