Most folks who come to the Smokies to stay in our Wears Valley, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg cabins are eager to see a black bear in the wild. But we always make a point of cautioning our guests when it comes to these iconic animals. Bears are wild animals. They’re not in a zoo, which means we urge all visitors to treat them with a healthy degree of caution and respect.
One of the biggest mistakes out-of-town visitors make is feeding the bears. This situation often comes up because there has been a recent surge in the baby bear population, which has put a strain on the supply of their natural mast foods. As a result, more and more bears wander into campsites and other human-populated places to get food. And that’s when it becomes tempting to feed the bears.
However, feeding wild bears is harmful to them. Our food is not good for their health, and it makes them dependent on humans for survival. So here are some tips that make your presence less tempting to the bears:
• Keep your public campsite or picnic spot clean and free of litter. Keep food stored securely in cars or suspended overhead from a tree.
• In the backcountry campsites and shelters, use food-storage cables, and never leave your backpack unattended.
• If you’re day hiking and leave the trail, never leave your backpack unattended.