GATLINBURG, Tenn. (WATE) — Two trails in the Gatlinburg area are now closed due to a large concentration of black bears feeding on acorns, according to the National Park Service. The trails will remain closed until further notice.
According to Great Smoky Mountain National Park Management Assistant/Public Affairs Dana Soehn, there has been some aggressive bear encounters where the animals ‘bluff charged’ hikers. Meaning, they attempted to scare or intimidate people on the trail.
The Gatlinburg Trail between Gatlinburg and Sugarlands Visitor Center and the Twin Creeks Trail between Gatlinburg and the Twin Creeks Science and Education Center have been temporarily closed, Great Smoky Mountain National Park officials said Wednesday.
The Gatlinburg Trail is one of two walking paths within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where people are allowed to hike with dogs on leashes. Oconaluftee River Trail remains open.
The trails are closed to allow bears to feed undisturbed and to keep visitors safe. Park officials warned that bears may act aggressively to defend the areas where they are feeding during fall, as the bears prepare to survive in colder weather.
Bears need food like acorns and grapes to build up fat ahead of the winter, park officials said. Bears travel a lot during the fall looking for acorns and will travel more than 30 miles to find the fatty treat. During the fall, bears are also more likely to be seen feeding in closer together.
The trails are near the area where a bear attacked a man inside a rental cabin earlier this month. TWRA captured and euthanized the bear that attacked the man.
Wildlife officials implore people in bear-inhabited areas to practice BearWise techniques to avoid attracting bears in search of food. If you come across a bear while hiking, the national park website offers several tips here. Overall, people are encouraged to keep their distance from any bears they come across.