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Day Hiking and Wildlife

Day Hiking and Wildlife


The chance of seeing wildlife in the
wild is one of the exciting things about visiting Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. Some of the larger animals that may be
encountered while hiking in the park are deer, wild hogs black bears and even elk. It’s important to be alert at all times
while hiking on park trails to avoid surprising wildlife. Animals are naturally wary of humans
and generally choose to avoid us. If approached too closely or disturbed,
they may become aggressive. Ursus americanus, the american black
bear, is a favorite among park visitors and a
symbol of the wild and natural Great Smoky Mountains. Though they can be entertaining to watch, and may appear docile, bears are large, wild animals and
their behavior is sometimes unpredictable. Never feed or approach bears. We do have a regulation in place that
hopefully helps people understand what a safe
distance may be between people and bears. I’m standing at a distance of
about fifty yards, and normally that’s a safe distance between people and
bears. We tell people not to willfully approach fifty yards or closer or any distance that displaces or disturbs
a bear. Sometimes it’s different in judging distance inside a wooded area versus out in an open field, so a person needs to have a
good grasp of what about fifty yards is whenever they walk into bear habitat. We have about 1,600 bears in the
park. We also have a lot of people and, as you
can imagine, we have a lot of garbage as well. So really, the fundamental way that we manage
bears for the most part is to keep our food and or our garbage away from black bears. By doing so, it helps to maintain
that wild behavior that they have and they do relatively well. Mother bears teach their cubs to be afraid of people and also the smell of people, and when they
do that, they know that’s the best for them and also for their cubs for the future
too. Unfortunately, these animals loose their fear of people by getting our food and garbage, too–
to be rewarded for tolerating our presence. Many people don’t understand that nighttime garbage in a developed area along a trail really gets this whole process
started where we have an animal change from an animal with a good wild behavior
to an animal that can cause problems or can cause some risk for our visitors. You know, one of the most common
questions that we get from visitors, and even a concern by some visitors, is what do I do if I see a bear. Attacks on
humans are extremely rare but doing some basic proper responses, you can greatly
minimize the chance of an attack on a human being. If you’re hiking on a trail and you have the
opportunity to see a black bear, and you’re a good distance away, then it’s OK to stand there and watch the bear and enjoy the bear too. Don’t approach the bear any closer. Two important behaviors that people need
to basically understand in black bears is offensive versus defensive behavior. In the case of defensive behavior, in a situation where the bear swats the
ground, he vocalizes, such as blowing, popping his jaws, slapping vegetation, lunges at you, as what we call a “bluff charge”. really what the animal is saying is that you’re too close. You’re in that animal’s space and he wants you to back up and that’s
what you should do. You should talk to the bear in a low tone of voice. Slowly
backup and try to increase that space to hopefully protect you and also the
bear. And hopefully the bear will do the same. In the other case, though, where a bear approaches
someone, he does not vocalize, he does not bluff charge, he does not swat vegetation, as in defensive behavior, and normally the bear will come very quickly and steadily Some have described as the head of the animal is very low to the ground, the ears tend to lay back. In that regard, we term that as an offensive
behavior. So that bear is coming to us for some
reason; it’s probably after our food, but in some extremely rare cases it may
be evaluating us as potential prey species. We advise people to try to give the bear the right of way if it wants to travel a certain direction, try to let the animal do so. Change your direction, see if that makes a
difference. If that doesn’t work and the bear continues to approach you, we advise people if you are in a group
to get close together, wave your arms, yell. Try to get on higher ground or on a rock. Try to make yourself bigger. Pick up a rock or stick and throw it toward the animal. And try to make yourself more dominant and more authoritative than the animal.
Try to reestablish your dominance over that bear. If you do all those things and it still doesn’t work, and the bear continues to approach you, If you think the bear’s after your
food and it makes contact with you, you need to separate yourself from your food. Don’t protect your food at all
cost, that’s for sure. However if the bear does not show interest to your food, and the bear continues to come towards you and basically jumps on you, we tell people to
fight back aggressively. Do not, absolutely, do not play dead in a case where you are attacked by a black bear. Help protect others. Report all bear incidents to a park
ranger immediately. Bear pepper spray may be carried by
hikers within the park for protection against bodily harm from aggressive
wildlife. It must be commercially manufactured and
labeled as bear pepper spray and be registered with the
environmental protection agency and individual states. Bearspray must contain between one
to two percent of the active ingredients capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. Attacks on humans are rare and can be avoided by giving animals plenty of space and by following park rules for food and
garbage storage and disposal. Remember to be aware of your
surroundings at all times, and be watchful for all forms of wildlife while out
hiking. The opportunity to safely observe
wildlife in its natural habitat is one of the privileges we gain by preserving this great and vital landscape.

31 thoughts on “Day Hiking and Wildlife”

  1. The Smokies are a great place to enjoy waterfalls, hiking trails and wildlife. Visit Gatlinburg and the surrounding regions and NEVER APPROACH BEARS 🙂

  2. As far as I understood, bears do not pose a big threat unless in extremely rare cases, and people may even want to see bears. But how do you know when a bear has in its mind maybe attacking you?

  3. I've been there many times and hiked and usually they do not come after you. I do carry a bear bell though. Just like any animal does if they get into a lower stance then you need to worry. Like he said they rarely attack, but be on the safe side and know what to do in case you do see them.

  4. I go hiking there once a year and I have encountered them a few times while I was there. They tend to get out of the way or leave the area, but I did back away once when I saw some up the trail. I will always carry two things at all times on me, a bear bell and bear spray. Beautiful animals to see in their natural habitat, but always remember you are the visitor, and its their home not yours.

  5. We are coming in 4 wks for a visit. I can't wait! It will be Amazing! Never been there. My girls will love it.

  6. I am a professional photographer and have photographed bears with telephoto lenses at an appropriate distance for many years. The behavior I have seen from several point and shoot photographers is very concerning. Keep up the good work and try to educate some of the idiots I've encountered in the park.

  7. So fight back aggressively upon an attack?   If I carry a firearm.   Is shooting the bear an acceptable aggressive attack approach in the GSM?

  8. Very informative video…I love the information that the ranger gave us and also the acting of the 2 hikers lol funny!!! I'm planning to visit the park next week so I am excited but nervous about the bears…since I will be visiting with my kids.

  9. I swear I am not going. Fudge this. I'm sorry for the bride that is going but I'm not going no where F this

  10. give them " Sugar Smacks"  Laced with extreme sleeping pills, when nappy time comes RUN<    not really, but always be prepared you are in some animals home big and small, have the right gear,

  11. I’m from Central Asia and me and my family spender this weekend there. It was awesome. I’ve the video of hiking in my channel.

  12. Thank you for the video. Most of these kinds of official videos are pretty lame, but that was very helpful.

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