GSMNP Black Bear in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Great Smoky Mountains
National Park (GSMNP): Black Bear

The American black bears of GSMNP are more commonly known as Smoky Mountain Black Bears or simply as Park bears. No matter what you call them, the bears of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park are symbols of the wilderness and-- in a sense--freedom from the modern world.

Smoky Mountain Black Bear Appearance:

Smoky Mountain black bears are smallish in size as black bears go. They have furry rounded bodies with a broadsmoky mountain black bear heads, round ears and small inquisitive eyes. Smoky Mountain black bears have tan noses that resemble a dog’s snout with jaws equipped with forty-two teeth including two canines on the upper and lower jaw. Black bears neck and legs are short and very powerful. They can stand on all four feet as well as on their hind legs. Bear feet are made to walk plantigrade (heel to toe) like humans. The Park bears have medium length curved unretractable claws on five toes. These claws are highly arched and allow the bear to fish, dig and climb trees with surprising ease. Far from being clumsy as many people suppose the bears clawed human-like foot enables them to run short distances as fast as thirty miles per hour. An American Black bear does not have the characteristic shoulder hump found in Grizzly bears.

Smoky Mountain Black Bear Population

American Black Bear makes it home among the forested areas along the eastern seaboard of North America and range as far as the Sierra Madre Mountains in Mexico, yet nowhere is the Black bear more at home than in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Although American Black Bear populations within the Park are variable depending upon the food supply in a given year, generally you can count on well over a thousand. In 1998, counts indicated 1,700 bears or approximately two bears per square mile. Depending upon whose figures you use, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park has one fifth to one eighth, of the Black Bear population in all North America.

Why are there such a great percentage of Black Bears in the Park? Probably because GSMNP is the largest protected forested area in all North America. It contains more than 521,000 acres of mountainous land in Tennessee and North Carolina. The Park provides habitat not only for the Black bears, but also for the ecosystem that supports them. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is well noted for its streams, plant and wild life (65 types of mammals, 230 species of birds, and reptiles, fish and amphibians galore) that provides excellent water and food sources for Black Bears. Also important, the balance of nature within the Park fosters abundant plant life and vegetation (over 4,000 species) that provides the bears with seclusion so necessary for this solitary animal. There is no urban sprawl in GSMNP, and the bears love it.

But containment of urban sprawl and habitat protection is not the only reason that bears thrive in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Bears are successful in the Park because his most feared predator--man--is prohibited from hunting there.

More Black Bear Info:

Front Page • Where To Find ThemSafetyHabitat
Appearance BreedingBear CubsDietHibernation Links

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