Wildlife Viewing in SmokiesPlanning a trip to the Smoky Mountains? If so, you’re probably eager to see some of the wildlife the area is famous for. In this article, you’ll learn about the many kinds of wildlife living in the Smokies, get some practical tips on wildlife viewing, and discover the best places to see wildlife in the Smokies.
What Kind of Wildlife Are In the Smokies?
The Great Smoky Mountains are home to 65 different types of mammals, but with miles of dense forests for these animals to live and hide in, don’t expect to see all of them on your visit! Some of the most common wildlife seen in the Park are foxes, coyotes, and white-tailed deer. The Smokies are also home to around 2,000 black bears (so there is a good chance you may spot one!), bobcats, elk (re-introduced in 2001), wild turkey, raccoons, woodchucks and more.
Wildlife Viewing Tips
It’s important for visitors to follow the Park’s safety guidelines when viewing wildlife, not just for their safety, but for the animals. Did you know that it’s a violation of federal regulations (resulting in fines and arrest) to feed, approach, or disturb park wildlife? If you think this rule is harsh, think again.
When visitors feed or approach wild animals like bear or elk, they teach the animals not to fear humans. When a wild animal no longer fears humans, they often become aggressive and unpredictable, and eventually have to be euthanized. So while you may think it’s no big deal to feed them just one chip, if even 1% of the Park’s visitors each year fed or approached wildlife, it would mean that 100,000 people are endangering the wildlife each year. So stay in your car or at a distance, and don’t feed the animals!
Best Places to View Wildlife in Smokies
With so much dense forest covering the park, it can be hard to spot wildlife, so knowing when and where to go ahead of time is essential.
If you don’t mind the colder temps, winter is actually a great time of year to view wildlife in the Smokies since the deciduous trees are bare, meaning there are not as many hiding spots. Nighttime can also be a good opportunity to view wildlife since many of the animals are active at night.
The best areas of the park to catch glimpses of black bear, elk, white-tailed deer, and other animals are open spaces like Cades Cove and Cataloochee. The 5.5-mile loop road called Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is also a great spot to see animals from the comfort and safety of your car. As you drive past rushing streams and mountain forests, keep your eyes open for wildlife!