Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh, my!

Posted by on Apr 8, 2019 in Blog | Comments Off on Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh, my!

NO, there are no lions or tigers wandering around in the woods in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee but, it’s springtime and that means bears are coming out of a sort of hibernation and the momma bears are having their little ones, which can be as many as 4 cubs or as few as just 1 cub. She will soon be taking them out of their birth den to show them the world and let them roam around a bit and learn to be a bear. Since their habitats are being claimed by humans, bears are now wandering around in the surrounding communities around the park in search of food as well in the park.

When the weather cools and it turns from summer to fall and winter, black bears will begin to search for a safe place (den) for the colder months of the year. Black bears usually pass the colder winter months sleeping for long periods of time but, it is not truly hibernation. They wake up and leave the den if the weather is warm enough or if they have been disturbed by something or someone. A den is usually a place high up in a hollow tree, just a hollow tree stump or really any place that will give them shelter from the cold, rain, or snow. In late January and early February, the miracle of birth occurs. The cubs are tiny weighing in at only 8 ounces. Momma and cubs stay in the den while she feeds them until they are big enough to leave the den with her. Momma will teach them the ways of the world and hopefully, that DOESN’T include how to obtain human food. Even so, they learn how to survive on their own without their mother by around 18 months. They go on to live a life of their own at around that time. If their momma mates again before they are 18 months, they better be able to live on their own by that time.
There are laws against leaving out food and feeding the bears. Sometimes, the bears can become dangerous when they find human food. This means that a bear will return again and again to the same cabin or restaurant looking for food. They destroy things they wouldn’t normally in search of food. While an ‘untouched by humans’ bear can live 12 to 15 years in the wild, the bears that have been around and fed on human food only have a life span of 6 or 7 years. That’s half the life span!

Because of the harm to bears interacting with humans and their food, there are now strict polices to protect the wild bears in the Great Smoky Mountain Park. Bear sanctuaries, national parks and national forests have been set up to provide the bears with safe and protected habitat. These laws are strictly enforced by the Fish and Wildlife employees and agencies.