It would be a turnaround from last year, when a food shortage resulted in fewer cubs being born and more cubs being abandoned due to mothers who either starved or were hit by cars while looking for food.
Park wildlife biologist Bill Stiver told the Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/RiXAcu) that white acorns, which the bears prefer to eat in the fall, are especially plentiful.
"We expect to see a lot of females with cubs on the landscape this spring," Stiver said.
He said in addition to having healthier bears, the mast abundance has led to fewer nuisance complaints from people about the bears.
Last year, he said, there were a high number of nuisance complaints as well as bear-vehicle collisions. In addition, several backcountry campsites and trail shelters were closed due to nuisance bear activity.
"The highest road kills in the park were in 1984, 1997 and 2011," Stiver said. "Every 13 years or so we have a mast crash that results in bears moving all over the place."
Scientists say this year's acorn crop in the Smokies will start a gradual increase in the bear population, which will continue until the next mast shortage.
Because of the plentiful food supply, backcountry campsites are open this year, and warning signs posted at several campsites and trails should be removed soon.
Outside the Smokies, there have been about 250 nuisance bear calls to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency as of early October. TWRA bear biologist Dan Gibbs said many calls were connected to bears getting into household garbage or trash bins.
"The vast majority of our complaints are related to human activity — people not properly managing their garbage or barbecue grills," said Gibbs. "Bears have spread to the point where we can get a nuisance report from any county in our region. In the spring the sub-adult males are disbursing, and in the fall bears are looking for food. Bears are just part of living in East Tennessee."
Information from: The Knoxville News Sentinel, http://www.knoxnews.com
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.