husband and I have been going to Gatlinburg for the past twenty odd years and
have always searched the woods for a glimpse of a black bear. Several times we
spotted a few but in the last five years the only bear we have seen have been in
For some reason this year was different. Every where we went in the mountains
there was a bear lurking in the woods. The first sighting was a bit frightening.
Our group was hiking to Laurel Falls when we encountered a clot of other hikers
pointing into the trees and rapidly snapping pictures. A black bear was no more
than 200 yards up the mountain, ignoring us and eating a belly full of berries.
One hundred further yards up the steep incline another black bear meandered
through the trees. Fascinated, I snapped pictures along with everyone else.
The next day driving over the mountain to Cherokee NC, a small black bear shot
diagonally across the road in front of us and on our way back to Gatlinburg that
evening two rangers were stationed beneath a tall tree protecting a young cub
taking refuge in the limbs. It was both thrilling and frightening to see these
beautiful wild animals so close.
The book, Bears of the World, by Lance Craighead, studies different bears and
their diverse behaviors. There are basically eight species left in the world
today along with several subspecies. American black bear and the Grizzly or
brown bear call United States home with the Polar bear dominating the far north.
Bears as a whole are mainly omnivorous with the one exception of the Giant
Panda being the only true herbivore. On the other hand the Polar bear is the
only true carnivore while the rest are both plant and meat eaters.
Bears are not known to kill their own kind and will avoid aggression with each
other when possible. Although they will fight for dominance, food supplies, and
mates, a fight rarely ends in death. Once the weaker bear backs down and shows
proper submissive behavior the battle is over.
Bear have a high capacity for learning and memory. Only certain plants can be
eaten and only at a certain period of the plant life such as spring. Mothers
teach their cubs which plants are edible and where to find them. Cubs remember
this for the rest of their relatively long lives. Once a bear finds a garbage
can with food in it or a pan of dog food he never forgets and will come back to
that spot looking for more. Unfortunately this decreases the bear’s life span
because he is then considered a nuisance and must be dealt with.
Although black bear are not considered an endangered species their habitats are
shrinking due to human expansion. Many national parks aggressively protect their
bears so they can flourish in the wild.
Check your local library for more information about bears in our world and if
you are ever traveling through the Great Smoky Mountains make sure you have your
camera ready and be sure to look up. You just might see a bear up a tree.
P.S. Thank you so much to the voters who approved the different library
levies all over our state. Your overwhelming support proves that libraries are a
very vital source to our communities.
Free lance writer and employee of the Dayton Metro Library.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org