Mammals

With 65 different mammal species that live in the Great Smoky Mountains, the animals range from 700 pounds to the actual weight of a dime. The park’s biggest animal (weighing 700 pounds) is the Elk that was reintroduced into the surrounding area in 2001. The smallest mammal is actually a unique pygmy shrew, a tiny creature that barley weighs more than a feather. Some of the park animals, like the white-tailed deer, are relatively easy to spot while others, like the bobcat and coyote, are typically reclusive in nature. It is very common for park visitors to also see woodchucks, gray squirrels, raccoons, chipmunks, red and gray foxes, bats, opossums and skunks.

The most famous predator within the Great Smoky Mountains is the black bear. Frequently spotted in areas like Cataloochee Valley and Cades Cove, the black bear usually hangs out around open areas. Some other nocturnal, carnivorous predators in the Smokies include gray foxes, coyotes, bobcats and red foxes.

After many studies, park scientists strongly believe that the only feline that lives in the Smokies is the bobcat. Although park visitors have reported seeing mountain lions in the area, there has been no concrete evidence (scat or tracks) that this species avtually lives in the mountain region.

Due to their unique forelimbs, the bat is one of the most exclusive mammal in the entire park. The Smokies are the home to 11 different types of bat species that strictly prey on insects. Interesting 7 out of the 11 different bat species hibernate during the fall and winter months due to the cold weather.

The chances are, if you are visiting the forest areas, you will come across a grey squirrel, eastern chipmunk or a red squirrel. In addition, the solitary woodchuck or “groundhog”, will occasionally be spotted in open areas like meadows in the lower elevation regions. The largest rodent mammal in the park is the beaver. You can easy tell when a beaver has been around by the dams in the water to the west and southwest areas of the park, along with the cuttings on different trees.

Interestingly, one of the biggest mammal problems within the park is caused by the non-native, wild European hog. A danger to different ecosystems, the European hog is known to uproot plants and shrubs while wallowing across the land. Even though biology scientists would like to totally eradicate the hog from the land, it’s probably not a realistic course of action. Instead, biologists will shoot wild hog’s when they come across them in order to maintain the species population.