Great Smoky Mtns. National Park Feature
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- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
Black bear attacks in the Great Smokies or elsewhere in the mountains are extremely rare, but they do happen occasionally. The latest incident in the park was in May 2010, when a man hiking the Laurel Falls Trail was bitten on the foot by a small female bear. Later, the man was taken to court for luring the bear too close so that he could take a photo of it. The last known fatal bear attack in the park was in 2000, when a 50-year-old woman was attacked and killed in the Elkmont section on the Tennessee side.
If you see a bear, and you may—there are about 1,500 black bears in the Smokies—don't approach too closely. Never feed bears or leave food out, as most human-bear conflicts result from bears becoming used to eating human food. Picnic areas and campgrounds in the park have bear-proof garbage cans and food containers. If a bear comes toward you making loud noises or swatting the ground, it's likely demanding more space. Don't run, but back away slowly. If the bear follows, especially if it is not vocalizing or swatting, stand your ground, shout, and intimidate it by throwing rocks or sticks.
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