View Full Version : GSMNP Bear Knowledge

03-01-2009, 05:58 PM
A few years ago I had a "very unpleasant" encounter with a black bear while fishing in British Columbia. Basically, the bear and myself were equally surprised. When he stood up he was taller than my 6'3" frame. Fortunately, he retreated back into the woods and I proceeded to put my heart back in my chest. Since that encounter I have learned to keep bear spray at hand and tie a couple of bells to the back of my fishing vest or backpack. I would appreciate any advice or knowledge concerning safety and how to deal with the bears in GSMNP.

Carolina Boy
03-01-2009, 06:38 PM
Whats up man, first of all i am not an expert by any means regarding bears. That said i have spent a great deal of time fishing the park and have come accross quite a few bears. I have had them wonder up stream right on top of me, as well as standing on the shore looking right at me 10 feet away. I would say that for the most part the bears i have come accross are not scared of humans. I would believe this is in part to some idiots that still feel the need to feed them. I was told by a ranger once to just start singing to em, to try and make them aware of you and not surprise or threaten them. I think that the surprise factor greatly inhances the danger and chance of disaster. One thing is for sure, if you are in the elkmont area in the early fall/late summer ya gonna see em!!

03-01-2009, 08:08 PM
I think you are doing it- Carry the Spray, Make noise, although I wonder how effective bells are along a stream. If you walk in, then gear up, run your pack and food up between two trees, out of reach while you fish. Just remember our bears "Ain't wild" making them more dangerous. The park has had one death up above Elkmont aprrox 10 years ago, and several negative bear encounters every summer. Usually just yelling, making noise will cause them to leave.
Last summer, my wife and I met our son at Elkmont and went for a short hike up Cucumber gap trail before heading home. We suprised a sow and cub up a tree. The sow came down the tree hard tearing up branches as she came.(I've never seen that much aggression in the park before. Momma was a problem bear we found out later!) We got out of there quickly, she didn't follow. Ten minutes later, we meet two couples heading up the trail toward the bear. We warned them, one of them made a comment about the cute bears at Cades Cove got their cameras out and started to head toward them. I informed them that I was a Biologist and my son had worked for Tremont Institute several summers and WE were "getting out of Dodge". They went ahead anyway. Our bears have been contaminated with Stupid People Behaviors!

Randall Sale
the Kytroutbum

03-01-2009, 08:31 PM
amen....stupid people behaviors

03-01-2009, 08:34 PM
What is the old joke about distinguising the difference between animal dung? Grizzly piles are full of bells, whistles, and punctured cans of Bear Spray?

I second the singing idea...had a momma and two cubs cross river bout 20 yards ahead of me two years back...saw the cubs first:eek:, immediatly started talking to them asking where momma was while backing away downstream, she saw me and hustled them up the hillside.

Seriously...if someone remembers the joke please post it.

03-01-2009, 08:41 PM
generally, if ya leave them alone, let them know you are there, no problem

03-02-2009, 01:13 AM
So what's the best thing to do if the bear is aggressive?

03-02-2009, 10:18 AM
This morning I found this link from the park service.


03-02-2009, 10:23 AM
Let the bears know you are there. Back away assess the situation, food, cubs etc. If it approaches. DON"T RUN!! It'll trigger their fleeing prey instinct. Yell, look big, back away slowly. Stand your ground if they charge. Most of the time it'll be a bluff charge. DON"T PLAY DEAD with Black Bear. If attacked fight back. Spray them THEN if you have it!

Grizzly and Black Bear are two different animals with different personalities. With a Grizzly, if attacked, play dead, keep your pack ,etc covering your back rool up fetal position and protect your abdomen. Don't Challenge him. You probably woke him up from his nap, "P.O.ed" him, and he wants you to have a bad day also. Probably a Dominance thing.
A black bear views you as FOOD.

Last year someone posted a site showing bear attack fatalies by species since (1900?) They ran 1 to 1 Brown Bear (griz included) to Black Bear. I played with it eliminating Alaskan attacks and found it was more like 3 Black to 1 Brown(Griz).

I fish in the Shoshone Forest-Beartooth Mountain of Wyo/Montana regularly and purchase a set of cans there. Bring them home and carry them in the park, etc.(older cans /spare) also carry them in car. N.F.S, rangers and personel are required to carry it.

03-03-2009, 12:16 PM
I agree with Randall, Black Bears are more of a problem than any other type of bear. Numbers from this past Summer puts the number of bears in the GSMNP between 1500 and 1800. As Byron mentioned in today's fishing report, it seems like the mild winters have kept the numbers up. By contrast there are less than 1000 bears in Yellowstone (380 Grizzly and 600 Black bears). And Yellowstone is over 4 times the size of GSMNP (2.2M+ acres v. 500k+ acres) with a third of the number of visitors (3M v. 9M), so the likelihood of "spotting" one is much greater here than anywhere, it seems.

The reality is that you are much more likely to get seriously injured (or die) from a fall than any bear attack, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared.

There's some good info on bears at the following site. It's intended for visitors to Yellowstone, but it highlights a lot of the differences and how to defend yourself in light of aggressive bears. http://www.yellowstone-bearman.com/bears.html

As the author noted, once you step out into the backcountry you are part of the food chain... Stay alert, sing (hum or chant) and skip the bells...and avoid stupid people behaviors...

03-03-2009, 03:23 PM

In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear conflicts, the Montana Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in the field. We advise that outdoorsmen wear noisy little bells on their clothing so as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them. We also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear poop. Black bear poop contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear poop has little bells in it and smells like pepper.

03-03-2009, 03:34 PM
GMREEVES that is to good. Hope none of that bear poop has any remains of one of your nice cane rods.:smile:

03-03-2009, 06:35 PM
Couldn't remember the rest of that to save my life....thats a good joke to add a little levity to a serious situation:biggrin:

03-03-2009, 07:20 PM
per byron's fishing column.....there will be almost 2k bears when they come out this spring....they been a breedin' like rabbits...albeit big rabbits

Byron Begley
03-03-2009, 09:16 PM
Hi Sam,

I knew you would know.


03-03-2009, 10:00 PM
Is there a number the park service would consider too many bears?

03-03-2009, 11:15 PM
Ever skin a Griz, pilgrim?


03-04-2009, 03:03 PM
one sow with 5 cubs


year one and year 2

03-04-2009, 03:40 PM
where was this at?

03-04-2009, 04:17 PM
Are you kiddin' Sam? Twins are rare for black bears and triplets are even rarer. I've never seen or heard of five cubs until that picture.

03-04-2009, 04:54 PM
there were quads a couple of years ago living over near sparks road....

and those really are quints

03-04-2009, 04:59 PM
those pictures were taken by tom sears...and they were emailed to me by a park volunteer

03-04-2009, 06:18 PM
It would be interesting to have that group banded and sexed (male vs. female). Apparently their mother has some unique genes.

03-04-2009, 07:13 PM
I have run into many bears while backpacking and they have always run off as fast as the could into the roto, or at least paid absolutely zero attention to me. This includes a mother and cub I ran into last summer on the Gregory Ridge Trail.

03-04-2009, 07:35 PM
Thats an excellent link offering a lot of good information. I think I'll use my bells for the front door around Christmas now. Thanks again.

03-04-2009, 07:53 PM
That' amazing!

Rob GRiggs
03-05-2009, 01:08 PM
The best way to avoid a bear attack is to take a buddy that you can out run. Ha just kidding. I have used the bells before but wow they drive me crazy. I now just take a rescue whistle and blow it so often. If I see a bear I really blow on the whistle the bear will usally take off. Lucky you dont really have to be on the look out for mountain lions there. THAT is the animal that I am scarred of. The silent killer. They like to attack from behind.

03-05-2009, 02:36 PM
Hey, is that second one a picture of OctoMOM???:smile:

03-05-2009, 06:41 PM
nope, the bear is better looking than octomom

03-05-2009, 06:48 PM
The bear also raises its own children. It doesn't expect someone else to.

03-05-2009, 08:16 PM
Yep and the bear can forrage...Can Octomom do that? I don't think so...

03-06-2009, 10:15 AM
OK, how about PentaMOM....

Now that's funny, I don't care who you are!!!

03-06-2009, 10:29 AM
I like the way you think Speckleman5!

03-11-2009, 12:22 PM

03-11-2009, 08:39 PM
Good news, ya'll can stop worrying so much about bears, I saw a snake today :eek: