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Kentucky is home to a growing bear population that offers frequent and widespread viewing opportunities in the wild. Long-term monitoring and ongoing research has identified the core population as concentrated along the Pine, Cumberland, and Black Mountain areas within in Harlan, Letcher, and Pike counties. Their current range also includes the entire eastern region of the Commonwealth along the Southern Appalachian Mountains bordering Virginia and West Virginia.

In addition, bears have become increasingly common in McCreary and surrounding counties expanding outward from junction of the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area (BSF). It is suspected that growing bear numbers in McCreary County are the likely result of population expansion from the BSF in Tennessee, which was home to an experimental release of 14 female bears from Great Smoky Mountains National Park from 1996–1997. Since 1998, the KDFWR has received sighting and nuisance reports from 54 Kentucky counties.