It’s morning in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. For this small black bear cub, that means it’s time to climb a tall pine tree! Gotta practice, right? This was one of three cubs sharing this tree and having fun, as mother bear guards the area below. Photographed along the Foothills Parkway near Wears Valley. Prints available.
I photographed these climbing bear cubs yesterday morning along the Foothills Parkway in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, near Wears Valley.
The first sound I heard was probably the mother bear, moving through the underbrush near the base of the tree, down the hill approx. 50-feet away. Next, I heard (and soon observed) the three bear cubs climbing the pine tree, shredding bark under paw during their hurried ascent – it was like a sawmill with wood chips flying through the air! I also heard the mother bear snorting a few times, likely communicating with her cubs, or maybe reminding me to keep away from their space.
If you look closely near the top-right of the tree shown in the second picture, you can see a sibling cub perched among the branches.
The only person in the park and 2 miles deep into a forest hiking at the Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area – located in north central Tennessee – I was very surprised to discover that an adult male black bear had managed to quietly approach within 30 feet of me – a startling sight when I turned around! I estimated his weight to be twice mine …read more
I recently hiked 7 miles at the Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area, near Jamestown, Tennessee – more about that in the days ahead. This post recaps two instances in which I encountered bears along the trail.
Highlights: the park offers scenic overlook areas of the canyon, substantial sandstone cliffs, interesting geological structures, and a canopied forest trail system.
Bear No. 1
Have you ever had the feeling that you’re being watched? That’s exactly how I felt as I approached a small stream at the base of the canyon. I had the sense that something was out there, and so I stopped to survey my surroundings, keeping still to remain quiet. I didn’t see or hear anything. Here’s a picture of the stream, which I photographed on my return:
The trail followed the stream, slowing gaining elevation with distance. I was at a point approx. 15 feet above the stream when it happened – an adult male black bear probably over twice my weight (235 lbs.) had snuck up on me and was within 30 feet. This was, no doubt, the source from which I had pondered moments earlier. It was a shocking sight, to say the least.
I stopped moving and wondered what was next – should I turn back in the direction from whence I came, attempt to climb a tree (which was problematic – these trees were tall, without low branches), remove and unzip my backpack to acquire a knife, or begin making noise (I can whistle really loud!)?
I instead opted to remain still, concluding that the bear was aware of my proximity and deemed that I wasn’t a threat – an easy posture to assume, given such scale! Watching for a few minutes, it was clear that the bear was undertaking his daily scavenging for a meal routine, shifting rocks in the stream to un-house potential sources of food. This was in fact what first alerted me to the bear – the sound of rocks being moved.
When I regained my composure, I took this video and followed the bear from along the trail, staying back a distance while attempting to remain less conspicuous behind trees:
The large rock casually moved around by the bear in this video probably weighs at least 125 lbs.. Glad he didn’t charge at me!
Also read: Part Two – Another Black Bear Video
Bear No. 2
I saw another bear higher up – on the trail along the ridge – which was either a female or adolescent estimated at 300 lbs. or less. As I was walking and watching the ground so as to not roll an ankle, I happened to glance ahead and see a bear on the trail – looking directly at me.
This bear was probably 60 feet in front of me, and, when we made eye contact, took off like a bat out of hell racing downhill through the forest on an estimated 30-degree slope. I was truly amazed at how fast it bounded down the hill!
More To Come
I’ll be posting more information and photographs of my hike at Pogue Creek Canyon State Natural Area in the days ahead… stay tuned!
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