Wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains

Black bear cub playing on wood stockThere are thousands of animals in the Great Smoky Mountains. Animals are protected in the National Park as some species are endangered, and some have even been reintroduced after being wiped out.


One of these species is the elk. Elk were reintroduced to the park in 2001 after being eradicated about 200 years ago. They can often be seen near the Cataloochee Valley, and the best time to spot them is in the morning or evening. Elk are some of the largest and most majestic animals in the area but should not be approached.

Black Bears

Another big animal, and the symbol of the region, is the American Black Bear. Scientists estimate there are about 1,500 bears in the park. The bears usually weigh between 100 and 300 pounds, with females smaller than males. The best time to see the bears is in the morning or evening during warmer months. During the winter, bears retreat to their dens, and mothers and cubs usually reappear in the spring. The Black Bears like to eat berries, nuts, and insects, but sometimes cannot resist the smell of human food. Thus, it’s important to store your food properly and never litter.

Other Animals

The Great Smoky Mountains are also home to smaller creatures. Visitors may spot squirrels, chipmunks, birds, white-tailed deer, bats, foxes, and groundhogs. There are also plenty of fish, particularly trout, in the 700 miles of streams running through the park. Interestingly, about 30 species of salamander live in the region, as well.

In general, since dense forest covers the area, it may be easiest to see the wildlife during the colder months when many trees have lost their leaves. Remember that feeding, touching, and disturbing wildlife is prohibited in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so bring your binoculars and enjoy the animals from a distance!

After a fun day spotting the numerous animals in the Great Smoky Mountains, you can relax in your cozy cabin. Aunt Bug’s cabins are immersed in nature, with spectacular views of the Smokies or the Little Pigeon River. Learn more about our properties by visiting our Cabin Search page. We hope to see you in the Smokies!