TOWNSEND, Tenn. — A Smoky Mountain photographer is sharing what he calls a "dream come true" moment.
A few weeks ago, Barry Spruce got a call from a friend in North Carolina who told him he had seen a bear on his property with not one, not two, but five cubs!
Spruce, who owns Cades Cove Gallery, spends a lot of time in Cades Cove. He is also a professional guide, taking people on hikes specifically to see bears and other wildlife, so he knows bears.
Usually, bears give birth to two to three cubs. Sometimes, they'll have four, and that's not super common, though there are two busy mother bears in Cades Cove running after four cubs each right now.
So Spruce knew--- a bear with five cubs is very rare. He made the trip to his friend's property in North Carolina with his fingers crossed and his camera ready, in hopes that he would get lucky.
And he did!
Spruce said he saw the bear walking down a trail from the top of a mountain with her little ones in tow. The cubs eventually scampered up a tree while their mom waited below. He watched from a safe distance and used a long lens to capture some amazing images.
"I never thought I would experience it, let alone photograph it," he said. "It was a dream come true."
Spruce said he believes the last professional photos of a mother bear with five cubs were taken in 2007 up in Maine, so it's been a while. He's never seen a bear family of six in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The cubs were likely born in January, Spruce said, so are almost six months old. They'll stay with their mother through the coming winter and then will venture out on their own in late spring or early summer.
He only got to spend about 30 minutes observing the large bear family before she led her brood back up the mountain. He was there for three more days but never spotted them again. But he'll never forget it.
"She came down that trail and it was just amazing!" he said.
Spruce will eventually sell prints of this amazing bear encounter in his gallery.
Want more bear videos? Check them out in the playlist below: