View Full Version : Black Bear Encounters

02-17-2006, 11:35 AM
Has anyone had any close calls with the bears in the park? I was fishing in Greebrier one November and had pulled off the road well above the paved road. As I exited my truck I started down to the water when I noticed a big black bear about the same time he or she noticed me. I headed back to the truck as the bear headed back into the woods. We were about 20 yards away from each other when we both decided to leave the area. It was the biggest bear I had ever seen in the park!

02-17-2006, 12:00 PM
Thanksgiving before last I was fishing a stretch of the Little River when people were stopping along the road doing the pointing and jumping out of the car with a camera thing. At first, I though it was because they were admiring my perfect casts to rising fish ;D but it turned out that there were a pair of cubs just ahead of me about 20 yards away...they were scrambling around, playing and climbing a tree that was over hanging the water.
I sat and watched them for a moment as I was standing mid stream, and then that feeling came over me - where was the momma bear? As I turned around, I found her sitting behind me on the shore not more than a couple of rod lengths away. Basically the water seperated us, but I just sat there looking at her and she at me as she was sniffing the air trying to figure me out.
She wasn't very big. Maybe 75 - 100lbs if that...but regardless, no one would ever want to be inbetween a mother bear and her cubs. So I calmly waded back to the other side and she eventually called her cubs and they scurried up the hill. They didn't leave though, they spent the better part of a couple of hours no more that 50 yards away from the waters edge. After the nerves calmed, I figured I stay and continue...it hard to leave rising fish. Though it was some what harder to keep one eye on the fly and the other to the hillside....


02-17-2006, 12:04 PM
Good read Waterborn. Does anyone remember the last death by Black Bear inside the park?

02-17-2006, 01:36 PM
Bears, I've seen more then my fair share. Never have had a problem. If you don't bother them they will leave you alone. I have only seen one agressive bear and she was running away from a group of kids that were chasing her. The problem are the tourist who put themselves and there children at risk, truly unbelivable. Ive also seen some very big bears in the park, 350 to 400 pounds and 3 to 4 feet at the front shoulders. I was driving back from the chimmy tops one night and saw one roll out of the woods onto the road. It walked right up to my car a looked me square in the eyes. That was one big dude.

02-17-2006, 03:10 PM
The last death by a bear must have been May of 2000...I think. Husband and wife were hiking up Little River trail. Husband hiked on without his wife, who wanted to wait back and hang out by the river. He came back and she had been mauled and partially eaten by a very aggressive bear (I don't remember if she had cubs with her). I think this same bear had been a nuisance in some of the surrounding campgrounds shortly before the death. I was dayhiking Little River Trail up to campsite 30 in May 2004 (same time of year) when I happened upon a mother and her cub camping out on the trail. Had to wait them out, but you better believe the story from a year before was running through my head. After about 15 minutes of waiting by myself, a park ranger came up the trail behind me. He had a large shovel with him. It's nice to know that he was ready to bury me 6 feet under if he had to. Ha. I saw 7 bears out on the trails in 2004, most of which ran away after seeing me, just don't get in between mom and her cubs. Trust me. A friend and I must have been the fastest ever to hike Rich Mtn Trail after making that mistake. All I know is that mama bear was up in a tree with us between her cubs and she wasn't happy. Heard a rustle up in the tree and a boom on the ground when she came down. We didn't wait around to see what she wanted.

Has anyone else seen the movie Grizzly Man? That guy was a nutcase. Can't fault him for being passionate, but he was definitely not all there.

02-18-2006, 12:40 AM
Very interesting stories. I get up to the Smokies on average about 5 times a year these days both for vacation and for the fishing. I've only seen 3 bears during all that time, and believe it or not they all came on one trip. My brother and I were on our first back country fly fishing trip. We saw bears on the West Prong Trail, Little River Road, and Porter Creek Trail. By far the closest was a large male on Porter Creek Trail. We were in an area with heavy undergrowth. Out of no where this bear crashed out right in front of us, about 10 yards away. He stared us down for a moment while we froze in shock. Then he dismissed us and ambled on off into the woods, vanishing as quickly as he had appeared. I'll always remember that moment.


02-18-2006, 02:07 AM
That was close. Too close for comfort in my book! I have been going to the park since I was a child. First with my parents then as a teenager looking for fun, then as an adult to hike, camp and fish. Many times we would go a couple of times a week. In 47 years I bet I have seen more than 15 or 20 bears. It seems that the only time they become a problem is when people feed them or they become too old or sick to eat naturally. Of course you never want to get between mom and cubs. Still it is very intimidating to come face to face with an animal that is powerful enough to kill you!

02-18-2006, 10:17 AM

02-19-2006, 03:13 PM
I've found that the best way to keep bears from attacking YOU is to smear peanut butter on your fishing partners pant leg or camping partners tent. And always make sure you aren't the slowest runner in the group. Ha.


02-20-2006, 01:22 PM
I just celebrated my 50th birthday and have visited the park at least once a year, almost yearly. Over time we have seen a few bears in some interesting situations. Last year while fishing along the road along Elkmont i began noticing different animal tracks streamside. I first saw some prints by what appeared to have been a bobcat or lynx. The prints were wet and had almost perfect outlines on a couple of streamside rocks. As I continued fishing downstream i looked down and there were big paw prints in the mud, apparently bear prints and you could see the outline as well as some scratch marks. I figured they could be old prints, but as I continued looking there were some similar fresh and still wet looking prints on surrounding rocks leading away. I looked for a bear, but it had apparently left before I had seen it. How much earlier I don't know which caused me to wonder how many times bears see us without us having much of clue they were even there.

Asa kid I recall the drive and stop process when you'd see folks parked and standing with cameras in hand, universal signal for bear :) Once when my parents pulled off to get footage on the Kodak Super 8, this big ole boar bear was standing with his paws inside a 55 gal trash barrel. In a few minutes he stood back and withdrew his paws with what looked akin to flypaper. As he continued to wrestle with it, it turned out to be a bumber sticker and as he seperated his paws you could read it. The funny part was the sticker read, "See Rock City".


02-20-2006, 02:59 PM
You are probably right about them seeing us and us not seeing them. Did I say that right? It has been about 40 yrs since I've seen a 55 gal drum for a trash can in the park. I LOL imagining the bear with the sticker :D.

02-23-2006, 06:05 PM
while fishing the roaring fork area one late fall evening..........this stumbled up on me.......

the light was getting bad so i had to set my camera on night shot. *that is why it looks black and white.

he was rather curious of what i was doing and i was not about to stick around to explain it to him. *i took a few shots and eased out....


03-07-2006, 10:57 AM
A couple of years ago, a bear harassed a jogger about Tremont. Unprovoked it followed the jogger very closely and would not leave when the jogger turned and stared him down. I had an instance above Elkmont several years after the death where a bear beelined down a hillside toward me, and stood on the bank and walked back and forth before my son , fishing above me came down and we both threw rocks and it left. There is a bear population explosion going on and they also have mostly lost fear of humans. My wife and I both carry a canister of "Counter Assault" Grizzly spray on us. I believe I'll probably have to use it on someone's fido before a bear though.

There are a lot of Human Bear encounters in the Park, that DON"T get publicized by the NPS. A Smokies Bear may or may not act like a "WILD bear. Respect them.

A old guide in Wyoming told me the difference in Griz and Black bears is: A griz is angry at the world and if he attacks you, he just wants you to have a BAD DAY also. Play dead, curl up and he'll leave. If a Black attacks you he is hungry, fight like Heck.

03-07-2006, 12:59 PM
Your advice on handling bears jives with what I have learned also. Thanks for contributing.

03-09-2006, 10:38 PM
June '05 on a backpacking into #23 for an overnighter and backcountry fishing trip I was about 1-2 miles shy of reaching 23 when I spooked a Blackie in the middle of the river. I took both of us by suprise. He made little of the side of that mountain. That REALLY gave me a perspective of strength in their hind quarters. Being in the same area as the mauling and that close to Gatlinburg's resturant bears made for an uneasy evening.
Then there was another @ #13 where a 100lb'er spent the night in the campsite rummaging through the firerings.
I've never been threatened by one, just :-X spooked.

03-10-2006, 03:51 AM
Thanks for contributing. I believe that the more we learn about others experiences regarding bears may better prepare us to handle future encounters. We have all seen or heard what a large dog can do such as a Pit or Rotwieller and that is just teeth. Imagine a 100 lb. dog with the ability to use it's claws.

03-13-2006, 09:27 PM
It hurts to even think. *Glad you started this thread.

03-15-2006, 05:52 PM
saw my first black bear of the spring on sunday 3/12. last years mast was not nearly as good as 2004 and this bear was not nearly so fat as last year's early bears.
i see about 75 different bears a year and can only remind people-They are BEARS.

03-16-2006, 01:18 AM
A suggestion: A can of Bear Spray is good insurance. We don't know what some Touron(Tourist-Moron) did to the bear before we encountered it. This stuff will turns Grizzlies around. Love them from a distance!!!

03-18-2006, 02:46 PM
use of bear spray in the gsmnp is prohibited and can result in fine or imprisonment.

03-19-2006, 12:49 AM
I just shot a quick email to the NPS to double check. Realizing the NPS and Forest Service are two different entities Forest Service personnel in the Gallatin and Shoshone are REQUIRED to carry it when ever they leave their vehicles. The spray has been advertized as a Non lethal way to make bears change their minds about messing with humans. I know that Wynn's(before it when out of business) carried it after the fatal attck on Little River.

I've posted recommending carrying the Spray for years on various bulletin boards, and never had anyone remark that it was illegal. Counter assault Bear Spray has propellent shelf life of *2 years, I been carrying the cans that I obtained in Cody, Wyo. ever since having throwing my sleeping bag out alongside my car in a N. F. campground in S. Ky and waking up to the growls of someone's Fido and his friends.

03-20-2006, 05:56 PM
I have been coming to the park since 1976 first with my late wife to hike(we hit every falls in the Park) and now by myself to fish(I'm too old to hike those high trails anymore) and I have never seen a bear. Part of me would like to, but then part of me thinks better of it.

03-20-2006, 06:04 PM
Cades Cove, Clingman's Dome and Greenbriar are the places where I have seen the most bears. Most of the backcountry campsites have bears when thier natural food is scarce.
Reality check! Who remembers the bear in Pigeon Forge that drank the chocolate drinks? This will show your age and history in the area.

Rog 1
03-20-2006, 06:30 PM
The bear that downed the chocolate drinks was not in Pigeon Forge but was on the outskirts of Sevierville....there is a concrete statue market there right now....Toward the end, they also had deer and elk in a fenced area behing the bear cage...this was at the fork of the road that ran over the river and past the quarry on your way to Sevierville. Now, to really show my age, in Pigeon Forge proper, there was an amusement park called Fort Wear....here they had deer walking the area that allowed petting and the caged bear there drank the old Orange Crush that came in the brown bottles. There is a multi-level putt-putt course on this site now....

03-20-2006, 06:37 PM
I'm about 10-12 years younger than you. Don't remember the deer and other animals but the bear I remember was always a spot we stopped when going into the park when I was a child. Now days it's hard to figure when you leave Sevierville and enter Pigeon Forge.
Anybody else know what we are talking about?

Rog 1
03-21-2006, 10:53 AM
When I was growing up the road thru Pigeon Forge was only 4 lanes wide and that is where the town generally srarted....there was only one or two traffic lights and only about a half dozen motels.....I could leave Sevierville and be fishing in the park in about 15 minutes.....how things change...there was no Dollywood....used to be a Wild West Park that Dolly bought and moved herself into.....think the place was Six Gun Territory....

03-21-2006, 04:08 PM
Dollywood was Silver Dollar City before Dolly bought it. i remember the bears and the 4 lane road into Pigeon Forge. I'm not as old as everyone else but I can remember when there wasn't a Belz Mall! And the only amusement park place was Magic World!

Rog 1
03-28-2006, 10:14 AM
Your memory is a little better than mine about Dollywood....Pigeon Forge used to be mainly for the spill over traffic from Gatlinburg....were probably only about 4-5 motels then... when those filled up the only place left between there and Knoxville was the Round Top Cottages behing my grandmother's house in Sevierville...occasionally she would get a call late at night from the Round Top's owner about putting up stranded tourists....that would kick us kids out of our room and onto the porch....things have really changed....who now would open their door to strangers in the middle of the night....

03-28-2006, 12:55 PM
I think that before Silver Dollar City it was Gold Rush Junction.

The Principal
03-28-2006, 03:46 PM
This really makes me look old, but I can remember the building of the first couple
of Motels at Pigeon Forge.

Rog 1
03-28-2006, 05:04 PM
I can remember when visiting my grandparents in Sevierville and the water would turn yellow we would grab all the thermos jugs and head out toward Wears Valley....across one of the one lane horse bridges was a "shotgun" spring where we would collect our drinking water until the faucet stuff cleared up....I think one of the first motels in the Forge was Wade's.....had one of the first swimming pools and we got to use it on occasion.....I also had a great uncle who built a cabin on the river in Gatlinburg on a double lot....he brought up a carpenter and his two sons from Delray Beach....paid them a total of $2 a day to build his cabin.....the cabin...named "The Poor House" is still there and I am sure it is worth more than most of us could afford at today's prices....

04-09-2006, 01:51 PM
We always were "Bear Bells" in Yellowstone They work...... Guess I will start wearing them in the SMNP. But....we also carry a 14oz canister of bear spray just in case the Grizzlies get curious.


04-09-2006, 11:38 PM
Tom W.
I fish the Beartooth-Absaorka(sp?) backcountry every other summer for 3-4 weeks. There is nothing like coming around a corner finding bear dropping with the juice on the berries still wet. *;)Bear bells work well there; (away from the stream) because the bears act "like bears". With the noise around our streams, I don't know if bells would work. Almost all my bear encounters have been when I've been on the stream or near it.Smokies bears are another story which makes them actually more dangerous. I have had one see me and bee line down a hill toward me. My Son and I had a very hard time convincing it not to come accross the river.They don't know fear of man or how a bear should act around humans. My concern about the "little bears" in the Smokies is EQUAL that of walking up onto a Brown furry sleeping in the Tag Alders. Respect them because they are unpredictable.

The propellant in your spray has a life of two years after which its distance will decrease. The pepper doesn't lose effectiveness. Might as well carry it if you have it, if you have to use if it will probably be on someone's dog. (The spray is legal in the park!)

04-10-2006, 01:07 AM
I intended to purchase some Bear Repellant a few weeks ago in preparation for a Smokies Trip, but after a quick Google search I found some information about the spray that was more than distrurbing - a gentleman in Alaska had the pontoons eaten off his plane after he sprayed them with repellant and another sprayed the beach and stood back and watched the bears roll in it like cats in catnip.

I would like to get another opinion, but I don't want bring them in for a closer look ...

04-10-2006, 08:45 AM
I understand that unless you hit the bear in the eyes it has no effect. They would have to be within about 20 feet to be used and that is a long shot from a spray can.

04-10-2006, 11:15 AM
Personally, I see no need for bells or spray in GSMNP. The bears here are not like the Grizzlies or Blacks out west. Yes, the tend to be curious, but I would hardly call them aggressive. This past September, a day after we left Yellowstone there were 2 hikers attacked by a Grizzly for no apparent reason. They topped over a hill and were attacked. They had spray that deterred the bear after slashing one hikers calf. The hikers turned back to the trailhead to get help and could hear the bear following them (he could smell the pepper). Like us, pepper is good unless it's sprayed into your eyes. IMO, if you are lucky enough to share some space with a black bear in GSMNP, enjoy the adrenaline, leave it alone, and move on. With all that said, if carrying the bell/spray gives you some sort of peace, then go for it.

04-10-2006, 02:49 PM
I tend to follow your philosophy when it comes to bears. The spray may work if attacked by homo sapiens.