Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a subrange of the Appalachian Mountains and forms part of the Blue Ridge Physiographic Province. It is one of the biggest wilderness in the eastern United States and it makes a home for a variety of animals. There are many animal species in the National Park that are protected: 65 species of mammals, 200+ varieties of birds, 67 fish species, and 80+ types of reptiles and amphibians.
American Black Bear is the symbol of the Smokies and it is the most famous resident of the park. There are approximately 1,500 black bears living in the park, and it is one of the largest protected habitats of the bears in the United States. If you encounter a black bear in the Smokies, it is advised to stay on a safe distance because their behavior is unpredictable. We encountered one at our inn, but we stayed in the safe distance, didn’t attract attention and he went his way. Male species weight around 250 lbs and females around 100 lbs. Their food is fish, nuts, and plants. The best place in the park to observe American Black Bear is in the Cades Cove (western side of the park) and Cataloochee Valley (eastern side of the park). NOTICE: Federal law requires you to store food properly, and you have to dispose of garbage and food scraps in bear-proof trash cans.
If you see a cat lookalike animal with beige, brown or black marking you should consider yourself lucky and you should know that is not a cat-it’s a Bobcat! Since it is a nocturnal animal its less possible that you will spot one in the park.
White Tail Deer
Unlike a Bobcat, you are probably going to spot a whitetail deer in the park. You won’t spot them if you do a hike in the woods as they prefer open fields, especially in Cades Cove and the Cataloochee Valley. Whitetail deer is the smallest deer in the North American deer family.
Elk is traditionally associated with the American West, and it is surprising to see it in the Great Smoky Mountains. They were brought to the park in 2001, and new members were added next year.
The Smokies are known as the Salamander Capital of the World as there are over 30 species in five families. Thanks to these lovely creatures this national park is uniquely diverse. If you want to see a salamander just turn over stones and logs in wet areas near creeks, just make sure to replace their home just as you found them. They breathe through their skin, the oil from your skin can hamper their ability to get oxygen so please don’t handle them for their safety.