On our recent sunrise viewing trip, we had an opportunity to do some bear viewing at Ivy Creek Overlook in Shenandoah National Park. A bear sighting in the park is not guaranteed and we frequently do not see them on our trips. This time, however, we had an awesome opportunity to observe a mama bear and her two cubs. This viewing was so much more awesome than any of our other bear sightings!
This sighting came on the heels of a spontaneous schedule change. After sunrise, we drove the rest of the Central District and headed out of the park for breakfast. The original plan had been to head back home after we ate and spend the rest of the day relaxing. While we had been up for several hours already, I was well caffeinated and decided to head back into the park while Hubs took a quick nap. :)
Back in the park, we headed into the South District on Skyline Drive. We had no plans other than to slowly drive through the park so that we could watch for wildlife. We barely made any stops at the numerous overlooks. However, I decided to pull into the Ivy Creek Overlook. As we are not often in the South District of the park, I wanted to make sure I had my overlooks correct for an upcoming blog post.
As I pulled in, a gentleman noticed my window was down and told me that there was a bear and two cubs at the other end of the overlook. I quickly parked the car, woke Hubs up, and grabbed the cameras. There was a small group of people standing on the wide stone overlook barrier. The barrier at Ivy Creek Overlook sits at the top of a brushy hill that is mainly tree-free. We joined the other observers on the barrier and began looking for the bears.
Hidden in the Bushes
We were lucky to be able to quickly spot the mama bear via foliage movements. This was very difficult for some observers. While we could see her movements, we couldn’t make out any of her body from the distance and our perch on top of the hill. After a few minutes of tracking her by foliage movements, we were finally able to glimpse her back. She is the small black shadow in the center of the first picture. We quietly observed her for a few more minutes as she slowly moved about the bushes.
A Mama Bear
After several minutes, quite a crowd grew at the overlook. Many in the crowd were talking at normal or above normal volume. (I know…) Not long after the volume increased, the mama bear stood on her hind legs briefly to ensure we humans were still a safe distance away from her and her cubs. Once confirmed, she returned to her foraging. Within 10 minutes of her safety check, she leisurely began making her way into the woods.
Her Tree-climbing Cubs
After the mama bear headed for the woods, her cubs quickly followed behind her. At this point, we hadn’t gotten a good view of either cub. I assumed that her cubs would continue to follow her path and was pleasantly surprised that they didn’t. Each cub stopped at a lone tree just outside the forest edge. The first cub looked around for about a minute and then left when his sibling arrived. The second cub climbed a few feet up the tree and observed us humans at the top of the hill. We were in awe and everyone was able to get numerous photos as he stayed there for several minutes. Eventually, he joined his sibling and mama in the forest.
As the mama bear had laid down within our sightline, we got to see her reunite with the cubs. Then out of seemingly nowhere, one cub quickly climbed nearly to the top of a nearby tree. The second cub quickly followed. We were again treated to several minutes of them hanging out in the tree.
The video below shows the descent of the cub that went up the tree first. Once both cubs were on the ground the family of three headed deeper into the woods and we returned to our car.
Interested in Shenandoah National Park? Check out my other posts about the park.