If you’re planning to make a visit to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the coming days, be aware! Two major trails, the Gatlinburg Trail between Gatlinburg and Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Twin Creeks Trail between Gatlinburg and the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center are temporarily closed to allow a large number of black bears to feed on… acorns?
According to a press release from the park, bears often feed for up to 12 hours a day and, in the fall, will specifically focus on foods like acorns and grapes in order to store fat reserves helpful for making it through the winter. Black bears enter a period of hyperphagia during this time, meaning they’re searching for large calorie boosts in preparation for hibernation. The caloric requirement during this period can reach up to 20,000 calories a day or, in layman’s terms, 11 pounds of acorns, PER BEAR! Some bears are known to travel more than 30 miles just to return to a particular group of oak trees.
Black bears aren’t usually aggressive towards people, generally running away rather than attacking, but, during the fall feeding period, these bears are much more likely to defend areas abundant with food.
In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, biologists estimate that there are around 1,500 bears (or ~two bears per square mile). As always, if you’re out on a trail and you come across a black bear, be smart. Keep your distance, don’t approach it and don’t let it approach you. If you’re entering a bear prone area, be sure to read up and understand bear safety, which you can find here.
Image Credit: Great Smoky Mountains National Park via Facebook