Imagine this, you have had a great day in the Smoky Mountains with your family or group. You have driven and toured Cades Cove. While there, you have seen and counted the wildlife in the area; 10 turkeys, 4 raccoons, 20 deer, 3 elk, 2 salamanders, 5 chipmunks, 2 groundhogs, 11 squirrels, several different bird species and of course too many rabbits to count. Yet, over 1,500 black bears roam the Great Smoky Mountain National Park and you haven’t seen one. At every stop of cars on the Cades Cove loop, you have searched for the elusive black bear. While hiking to back to the cabins you are ever watchful, still no luck.
You have made it back to the picnic area where you anticipate a quiet rest amongst nature as you enjoy your dinner. Sitting by the stream the grill warms up to cook your feast for the night. As you set up your table with all the delicious food you have brought, the aroma from the grill is torturing you while you wait for it to finish cooking. Unbeknownst to you the tantalizing smell of your food is drawing a curious visitor ever closer to your table. As you are enjoying the scrumptious meal you have prepared you hear something in the background. The meal is almost through when a curious visitor joins you. A baby black bear comes to your table as if this is normal! The urge to scream is stifled as all warnings you have read go through your mind quickly. You slowly back away from your table getting away from the food and the cute little bear. This cute little bear who is quickly exploring the contents of your table is after all a wild unpredictable animal. Then horror of horrors you remember, mama bear is probably close by! Just as you want to make sure that your family or group is safe, mama bear wants to protect her baby. The soup pot and metal spoon is very noisy as you beat them together to make noise to scare off baby bear before mama bear comes along. Unperturbed baby bear continues his feast. Looking around you see a Park Ranger driving up. Thankfully, back up has arrived. The Park Ranger is able to herd baby bear back to the trail and move him along the way. Looking up the trail baby bear came from you see mama bear stepping out to get him. The Park Ranger then makes plenty of noise to make the bear turn and go the other way.
While this story is humorous, sadly it happens too often anymore in the Great Smoky Mountains. Too many times bears and other wildlife have been fed by humans and their territory has not been respected. We get to walk into their lives for a short time to observe them in their habitat. For their safety and yours please remember they are not pets and as wild animals they should be respected as such. Please enjoy our area, but make sure to stay safe around the wildlife, we want you to visit us for many years to come.