Bears




support2016 bear projects funded by donations to Friends of the Smokies

Reduce Backcountry Bear Problems with Food Storage Cable Systems               $ 4,000

Each backcountry campsite and shelter has a pulley and cable system which campers are required to use to hoist their food and packs out of the reach of bears for the increased safety of both visitors and bears.  Each year a number of these systems are damaged through use or by falling trees and must be replaced.

Support Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR)               $ 7,000

Each year a number of orphaned or injured Park bears are treated and housed in the nonprofit ABR center in Townsend until they can be released back into the Park.  Prior to the creation of ABR, most of these animals were euthanized.

Support Bear Management and Hog Reduction               $ 34,000

Provides seasonal park staff to manage wildlife and public safety issues.  Activities include working traffic jams that result from bear sightings along park roadways to reducing the population of wild hogs which are invasive, disease-carrying destroyers of the park’s ecosystem.


Warning: Bears are wild animals that are dangerous and unpredictable. Do not approach bears or allow them to approach you!

Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear, is illegal in the park. Violation of this federal regulation can result in fines and arrest. Use binoculars, telephoto lens, or a spotting scope to view the animals.

Check the “Bear Closures” and “Bear Warnings” section of the Temporary Closures page before planning a hike in the park.

What Do I Do If I See A Bear?

Bears in the park are wild and their behavior can be unpredictable. Although extremely rare, attacks on humans have occurred, inflicting serious injuries and death. Treat bear encounters with extreme caution! Learn what to do if you see a bear by watching this short video.

If you see a bear:

  • Remain watchful.
  • Do not approach it
  • Do not allow the bear to approach you.
  • If your presence causes the bear to change its behavior (stops feeding, changes its travel direction, watches you, etc.) you are too close.
  • Being too close may promote aggressive behavior from the bear such as running toward you, making loud noises, or swatting the ground. The bear is demanding more space. Don’t run, but slowly back away, watching the bear. Increase the distance between you and the bear. The bear will probably do the same.

If a bear persistently follows or approaches you, without vocalizing, or paw swatting:

  • Change your direction.
  • If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground.
  • If the bear gets closer, talk loudly or shout at it.
  • Act aggressively to intimidate the bear.
  • Act together as a group if you have companions. Make yourselves look as large as possible (for example, move to higher ground).
  • Throw non-food objects such as rocks at the bear.
  • Use a deterrent such as a stout stick.
  • Don’t run and don’t turn away from the bear.
  • Don’t leave food for the bear; this encourages further problems.

If the bear’s behavior indicates that it is after your food and you are physically attacked:

  • Separate yourself from the food.
  • Slowly back away.

If the bear shows no interest in your food and you are physically attacked, the bear may consider you as prey:

  • Fight back aggressively with any available object!
  • Do not play dead!

Help protect others, report all bear incidents to a park ranger immediately. Above all, keep your distance from bears!

Stay safe in black bear country! Please watch this short video.

Find out more at nps.gov/grsm