A truly wild spectacle in Stowe, Vermont on Wednesday, stopped traffic and had dozens of people pausing to take pictures and stare at a pair of black bears who climbed to the near top of a tree.
"They're adorable," beamed Cindy Schneider, a traveler from Ohio.
"I know," added Schneider's friend, Sharon Filibeck. "You just want to hug them!"
However, biologists with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife said there is a serious lesson to be learned from the sight.
Stowe Police, at the request of game wardens, arrived to the road that leads to the famous Trapp Family Lodge to ask the crowd to disperse and give the cubs extra room.
"It's always best to keep your distance from bears," said Tom Rogers of the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife. "Bears are generally not dangerous in Vermont, but it's not something you want to test. You don't want to keep pushing it."
Several people who stopped for a glimpse of the bears did express a bit of uneasiness about their surroundings.
"I'm a bit worried about the mother," said Ulrich Frantz, who was visiting Stowe from Montreal. "'Where's the mother?' is my first question. But it's great to see young bears in a tree, and it's a first for me!"
So why might the pair have climbed so high in the tree? Rogers said that is often the response to a perceived threat, and that a protective mother was likely nearby, not happy about all the cars or onlookers.
"It's always a spectacle when people spot wildlife," Rogers said. "The best thing you can do is keep your distance, and move on quickly. Enjoy it, appreciate it, take a photo, but try to leave the area pretty quickly."
After the onlookers moved along, eventually, the cubs did climb down. necn witnessed an oncoming driver stopping as the bears cautiously stepped into the road before racing toward the woods; closer to where they belong.
"We know they're wild, so we have to be careful," traveler Cindy Schneider said after taking a photo, before driving away. "I can't wait to show my family at home. They really won't believe it! 'You really went to Vermont and saw bears?'"
Rogers said the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife has gotten many reports lately about encounters between humans and the state's roughly 6,000 black bears. He explained the animals are really active this time of year, as they gorge themselves on nuts and other food to build up fat reserves to get them through the winter.
"They're doing well," Rogers said of Vermont's bear population. "They're at the upper limit or close to the upper limit of our bear management goals for Vermont."
Rogers noted the state's goal for a managed bear population is between 4,500 and 6,000 animals.
Vermont has two bear hunting seasons. The early season, which requires a special bear tag, runs September 1-November 11, according to the Fish and Wildlife Department. The late bear season is November 12-20. The limit for bears remains one per calendar year, the department said in a recent news release.
After the bears came down from the tree in Stowe, necn witnessed them running along the shoulder of the road. The Fish and Wildlife Department said sights like that should serve as a reminder to drivers to stay alert and keep their speeds reasonable.