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Wildlife in Great Smoky Mountains National Park ...


Great Smoky Mountains National Park, contains the largest remaining areas of wilderness sanctuary in the East. Despite its vastness, the park is primarily composed of land that was altered substantially by white settlers and commercial enterprises over the past two centuries. Though the land now within the park boundaries has again reverted to forest, wildlife here reflects those changes. Animal life continues to thrive in the Smokies but some of the species the Indians knew are gone. There are new animals too, brought in by people who either did not know or did not care about problems created by the presence of exotic species in communities of native animals. We will acquaint you with a few of the more prominent and notable animals of the Smokies. Not every species that occurs here is mentioned, but the best known animals are included.

Wildlife Viewing:

You can increase your chances of seeing wildlife in these ways . . .

  • carry binoculars
  • drive slowly along park roads at dawn or dusk
  • when walking or driving, stop often to watch and listen for wildlife

Most visitors understand that feeding wildlife is against the law, but many people do not realize that disturbing park wildlife is also a violation of federal regulations and can result in fines and arrest.

The laws protecting park wildlife are contained in the Code of Federal Regulations. It states that “Willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces bear or elk is prohibited." In addition, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening, or intentionally disturbing wildlife is prohibited.

As a rule of thumb, if you approach an animal so closely that it changes its behavior, you have approached too closely. Instead use binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras with telephoto lenses to enjoy wildlife. Watch for any modification in an animal's behavior that indicates that you have approached too closely. Move away from the animal until you reach a distance at which the animal feels comfortable once again and resumes whatever activity it was engaged in before you approached.

Never feed wildlife or bait animals for closer observation or photography. Feeding park wildlife usually guarantees its demise.

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