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If you visit the park and see a bear, please stay in your car. It really ticks me off when people pull off of the side of the road and get out of their car to get a closer look. People are just stupid sometimes.
If you're on the trail, follow the rules. The National Park Service instructs that "willfully approaching within 50 yards (150 feet), or any distance that disturbs or displaces a bear is illegal in the park."
The NPS provides these suggestions if you should happen to see a bear:
1) slowly back away. Don't turn, and don't run.
2) If the bear follows you, change your direction. If he continues to follow, stand your ground and make noise. Throw non-food items at him and make yourself seem larger.
3) If you have food items, get rid of them!
Most importantly, please remember that these are not virtual bears. You're in their home, and they will protect it. There have been recent stories of bears who have had to be euthanized because of contact with a human, when the human has been the one to initiate the contact.
The Appalachian Bear Rescue is located just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains. They rehabilitate bears and return them to the wild. We have had representatives come to one of my schools. Every fall, we have a container in the foyer of the school for nuts and apples that are taken to the ABR. The kids have a good time collecting acorns around the school and their home for the bears.
Go to the Great Smoky Mountains and have fun looking for the bears, but keep your distance!