I am conducting research on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Tennessee Wonderland for my novel. It’s been a bit depressing seeing all of the endangered or threatened animals within a protected park. Wolves and mountain lions no longer live there and, while that may or may not make hikers safer, it is bad for the environment for two major predators to completely disappear. There are also invasive species — such as rainbow trout (the native is the brook trout) — that threaten native species and/or the environment.
The park features many amazing creatures. Birds like the woodpecker, the red-tailed hawk, wild turkeys, the saw-whet and great horned owls, and many more call the Smoky Mountains their home. The park is also the salamander capital of the world. They are often confused with lizards (that are there too) but are quite different. Of the park’s 23 species of snakes, only 2 are venomous — the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead. There are also many mammals like elk, white-tailed deer, and — most famously — the black bear (watch a black bear encounter safety video here).
Hardwood forests and 2,100 miles of streams are within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park as well. Caves are home to several types of bats. There are also 1,600 species of flowering plants within the park.
These facts provide ample opportunity for a unique setting. The more research I do, the more excited I am about writing about it. Let’s hope I can do the park justice.