8 Safety Tips for Seeing Animals in the Smoky Mountains

December 29, 2022

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park draws people in from all over the world because of its beauty. They’re excited to see natural wonders, and, hopefully, some native wildlife while they’re here. However, it is important to know how to interact with these creatures so they, and you, stay safe. Check out these 8 safety tips for seeing animals in the Smoky Mountains:

1. Keep Your Distance

deer in the snow in the smoky mountainsOne of the most important things to remember while you’re exploring is to keep your distance. You should never try to touch a wild animal because they are unpredictable, and it is extremely dangerous to condition these animals to not be afraid of humans. In the national park, it is actually illegal to get closer than 50 yards (150 feet) to a black bear, but you should strive to stay away from all wildlife as best you can.

2. Do Not Feed Wildlife

Feeding animals in the Smoky Mountains is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Conditioning these creatures that people will give them food makes these situations bad for wildlife and people. The animals become less afraid of humans and are more willing to approach them, which could result in people getting hurt and animals having to be euthanized. Additionally, some human foods could physically hurt these creatures.

3. Check for Bear Activity

Smoky Mountain black bearIf you plan on hiking while you’re in the national park, then you should check for bear activity beforehand. The National Park Service posts about trail closures due to bear activity and warnings for other trails so hikers can be prepared before they head out. Look under “Bear Closures” and “Bear Warnings” on their Temporary Closures page to stay up to date.

4. Do Not Stack Rocks

The Great Smoky Mountains are these creatures’ home. We are all simply visitors, and we need to respect their homes. People have been seen moving rocks in bodies of water or anywhere in the park, and this can wreak havoc on the animals’ environment. You should not move anything that could significantly impact wildlife’s home.

5. Carry In/Carry Out

salamander in the Smoky MountainsIf you plan on bringing snacks, gear, a picnic, or anything else with you while you’re exploring, you should follow the carry in/carry out method. In other words, you should take all of your food and trash with you when you leave the park. Littering damages the homes of the animals in the Smoky Mountains, and as previously mentioned, creatures eating human food can have several lasting impacts.

6. Do Not Move Vegetation

Just like with stacking rocks, you should not move any vegetation while you’re in the Smokies. Picking up leaves, sticks, uprooting plants, removing fungus, etc. can have a major impact on the environment that these animals live in, which could hurt them in the long run.

7. Watch for Behavior Changes

elk in the smoky mountainsIf you happen to see wildlife while you’re out on the trails, you should keep an eye on these animals while you’re near them. If their behavior changes in any way, that is a warning that you should back off. Every animal you see will not purposefully threaten a human just by seeing them, but if someone is too close, they may be provoked. Just be aware of where you are, where animals are, and how they are acting.

8. Avoid Hiking at Dawn or Dusk

Another tip we have for seeing animals in the Smoky Mountains is to avoid hiking at dawn or dusk. If you don’t want to encounter wildlife while you’re out on the trails, you will want to avoid their most active periods of time. Bears, deer, and other nocturnal animals will be most active during dawn or dusk.

Now you have a better idea of how to interact with animals in the Smoky Mountains while you’re out on the trails! We know people love to see wildlife while they are in town, and we hope you will follow these tips to keep yourself and the creatures safe. Want to know where you should go to see black bears in the park? Here are the best places to find black bears in the Smoky Mountains!