One thing you may think about when you hear the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the black bear. People hope to see them from a distance, but fear to see them up-close. Their life cycle and habits have been studied for years and much has been learned of these animals. There is an estimated 1,000 black bears in the park. Their fur can range from black to varying shades of light brown. Even though they are smaller than grizzly and polar bears, the black bear can weigh as much as 400 lbs and stand 6 ft. tall. During the fall, the bears search for acorns, berries, seeds, insects, and nuts for the winter. They gain anywhere from 3-5 lbs per day in order to survive during the winter and early spring. During October and November, black bears go into a deep sleep, but do not become fully dormant. Because food is so important, the bears are excellent scavengers, especially with the amount of trash that is left in the park by visitors. That is why feeding bears and leaving food unattended is prohibited. The bears are beautiful to observe, but please do your part and do not feed them and protect these unique bears.