Great Smoky Mountains National Park Wildlife
When most people use the words “wildlife” and “Great Smoky Mountains National Park” in the same sentence, it is natural to think of black bears. After all, the black bear has been an icon in the park since the days of its inception.
But there is more to wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains than black bears. Nearly every mammal, reptile, and amphibian known in Appalachia lives here.
Mammals include black bears, elk, white-tail deer, fox, coyote, opossum, raccoon, chipmunk, rabbit, red and grey squirrel, woodchuck, beaver, bat, flying squirrel, mice, moles, bobcat and river otter.
As a matter of fact there are 65 species of mammals known to exist in the park. The National Park Services has a handy checklist available of mammals in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park if you would like to try to find all of them!
The park is also home to many species of reptile and amphibians. There are more species of salamanders here than in any other place on Earth. In addition, several kinds of fish exist in the cold waters of the rivers and streams that flow down from the mountains.
One of the fish native to these waters is the Brook Trout. Brook Trout were nearly extirpated from the Great Smoky Mountains due to over-fishing, poor environmental practices by the timber industry and the introduction of exotic species in to park waters. Fortunately the Park Service has been working diligently to protect Brook Trout and their population has steadily increased over the years since the establishment of the park.
And let’s not forget about the birds! Bird-watchers from around the planet come to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to relish in the ornithological diversity of winded creatures. Eagle, turkey, owl and waterfowl of nearly every kind inhabit the park. Since many areas of the park were once inhabited, you are likely to find common species often associated with human settlement in addition to the reclusive unfamiliar birds that inhabitant the most remote regions of wilderness. Once again the National Park service provides a checklist of birds in the Great Smoky Mountains!
When enjoying wildlife in the Great Smoky Mountains it is important to follow some general rules both for your protection and more importantly for the protection of the animals.
First and foremost: NEVER feed the animals. Feeding wild animals alters their behavior and affects the way that they interact with humans. An animal that loses its natural fear of humans can become a nuisance and the results can be catastrophic.
Never approach or chase wildlife, especially when their young are present. The survival instinct is especially strong in wild animals and they can become aggressive if they feel threatened. We all want to see wildlife but it is so much better to enjoy their natural behaviors and habitats free from the molestation of excited park visitors.
The final rule is to use common sense and enjoy all that the park has to offer. You can spend a lifetime there and never see everything. There is always a surprise or two in store!