Park Reminds Visitors how to Safely View Wildlife
Friday, 15 November 2013 14:51 | Written by Public Affairs Office / Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials remind park visitors to exercise caution as they view and photograph wildlife to best protect both the animals and themselves. Park Rangers have recently received numerous reports of increased interactions between visitors and wildlife such as bears, white-tailed deer, and elk.
Park Rangers encourage visitors to use binoculars, spotting scopes, or cameras with telephoto lenses to best enjoy wildlife. Feeding, touching, disturbing, and willfully approaching wildlife within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces wildlife, are illegal in the park. If approached by wildlife, visitors should slowly back away to put distance between the animal and themselves creating space for the animal to pass. Often animals simply need adequate space to cross a trail, road, or public area as they travel through the park in search of forage and cover.
"Wild animals typically avoid visitor interaction unless they become food conditioned," said Park Wildlife Biologist Bill Stiver. "If an animal starts approaching and threatening human safety, we have several proactive steps we take to effectively manage the situation that bests protects the animal and the public. However, if the negative behavior escalates, our options in dealing with the animal quickly become limited."
Biologists recently removed the antlers of a large bull elk that routinely spends time in high use, public areas in fields adjacent to the Oconluftee Visitor Center, Mountain Farm Museum, and the Oconaluftee River Trail. Dominant bull elk typically defend their territory during the fall breeding season, known as the rut, by charging and sparring with competitors. Unfortunately, this 800-pound elk charged several visitors posing significant to public safety. Now that the rut is essentially over, the elk's aggressive behavior should lessen and by removing the elk's antlers which are annually shed, biologists further reduced the risk for harm to visitors.
Park officials have taken numerous steps over the past several years to prevent nuisance wildlife behavior by improving the design of bear-proof garbage cans and sanitation schedules, and promoting public awareness in our visitor centers and through our website and social media. The Park also created several volunteer programs including the Elk Bugle Corp and Oconaluftee Field Rovers, who provide on-site, timely information to park visitors so they may safely view wildlife. As a result of these efforts, wildlife biologists have relocated far fewer bears than in the 1980s and managed fewer nuisance animals.
For more information on how to safely view wildlife, please visit the park's website at http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/wildlifeviewing.htm.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Winter Schedule
Great Smoky Mountains National Park has announced its winter operating schedule. As cooler weather approaches and visitation decreases, various facilities will close, including campgrounds and picnic areas, and operating hours for some visitor services will be reduced.
All dates are subject to minor changes depending on weather conditions over the winter season.
Hours Through December 1
Sugarlands Visitor Center, located 2 miles south of Gatlinburg, Tenn., and the
Oconaluftee Visitor Center, located 2 miles north of Cherokee, N.C., will serve
visitors from 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Hours After December 1
The visitor center hours are posted on the Park's website, www.nps.gov/grsm.
Several of the secondary roads are scheduled to close as follows: The two-way
segment of the Roundbottom/Straight Fork Road, just outside Cherokee, will close
on November 12. Parson Branch and Rich Mountain Roads will close on November 18,
and Clingmans Dome and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail on December 2.
LeConte Lodge will close for the season on November 26.
Two of the three major campgrounds will remain open all year. These year-round campgrounds are Cades Cove in Tennessee and Smokemont in North Carolina. Starting in November they will be on a self-registration basis with a reduced number of available sites. Elkmont Campground in Tennessee will remain open through the Thanksgiving weekend and will close on December 1.
The remaining self-registration campgrounds at Cosby, Cataloochee, Deep Creek, Big Creek, have already closed for the season.
CADES COVE CAMPGROUND STORE
Cades Cove Campground Store will continue to offer all services daily through December 1. From December 2 - January 5, the souvenir and ice cream area will be open on Saturday and Sunday only, weather permitting. The main store building will be closed after December 2. The public restrooms at the store will be open on the same schedule as the souvenir and ice cream area. Vending machines at the store will remain in service throughout the winter.
Four picnic areas will remain open through the winter: Cades Cove, Deep Creek, Greenbrier, and Metcalf Bottoms. Chimneys Picnic Area will be open until December 1. Picnic areas and pavilions that have already closed for the season include Big Creek, Collins Creek, Cosby, and Twin Creeks. Of these, the picnic pavilions at Greenbrier and Deep Creek can be reserved at www.recreation.gov.
Smokemont Riding Stables is closed for the season. Sugarlands Riding Stables and Smoky Mountain Riding Stables will close on December 1. Cades Cove Riding Stable will be open daily through December 1. From December 2 - January 5, Cades Cove Riding Stables will be open Saturday and Sunday only, weather permitting. All stables closing dates are dependent on weather conditions.
Round Bottom, Tow String, Cataloochee, Big Creek, are already closed for the season and Anthony Creek Horse Camp will close on November 12.