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.