Driving through Cades Cove today, I turned into the parking lot to visit the Grist Mill and gift shop. A few park staff were directing traffic, and I observed approximately 50 tourists and photographers watching a family of bears – mother, and two cubs. Taking a spot to watch, the bears were situated under a huge walnut tree, feasting on walnuts – both on top of the grass, and buried under soil. The bears had an amazing sense of smell, locating buried walnuts to retrieve by digging, thereafter loudly crunching the shell to eat the walnut.
After a spell, I walked to enjoy several historic structures on site, before retuning to see that the crowd of spectators remained in place. Joining the group once again, I now observed four bears – a new family of mother and three cubs. The previous group had all climbed up the walnut tree and were lounging on branches.
The two mother bears wore tags in their ears for identification. Also, if you look closely at the first photograph, you can see a walnut near each bear.