GATLINBURG, Tenn. – The National Park Service has reopened Rich Mountain Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park following a month-long closure that gave black bears in the area safe access to forage for necessary natural foods.
August, when berry season has passed and fall acorns haven’t yet ripened, can be a hard month for bears to find the natural food they need. By limiting human activity on Rich Mountain Road over the last month, the bears in the area had time to find natural food and to start transitioning to the fall acorn crop. Too often, visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and residents of nearby communities feed human or dog food to bears, sometimes directly from vehicles and by leaving food in the road. This illegal and dangerous behavior causes bears to become conditioned to unnatural food, as well as people and vehicles. Over time, food-conditioned bears may become bold and aggressive in their attempts to obtain human food.
Park visitors and residents of local communities can help ensure their safety and the safety of black bears by taking responsible steps to prevent bears from becoming conditioned to human food, pet food and trash:
- Always provide bears ample space and allow them the opportunity to feed as part of their natural behavior.
- Never intentionally approach or feed bears or inadvertently leave food or trash out for bears.
- Lock car doors
- Do not stop along roadways in the vicinity of bears.
- Always remain 50 yards (150 feet) or more from bears.
- Photographers should use telephoto lenses.
To report a bear incident or unusual bear activity in the Smokies call 865-436-1230. For other tips and more information, visit BearWise®, which teaches people how to live and recreate responsibly in bear habitat.
For more information about temporary road and trail closures at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, please visit the park’s Current Road, Facility, Trail & Backcountry Updates webpage.
- National Park Service release