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    Katmai

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

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2013 Bearcam Year in Review

December 31, 2013 Posted by: Michael Fitz
What a great year on the bearcam! The cams received over 7 million hits and over 2 million hours of footage was streamed. This is equivalent to 229.3 years of bear watching. Of course, numbers don't quite do the cams justice. No one watched the bearcams to boost its statistics. There were many memorable moments that numbers can't capture.

The real success of the bearcams is because of the bears. Who can forget bear 469's attempt to persevere through injury, the playfulness of young and well fed bears, or the care mothers took to protect their cubs? The insight gained into the lives of bears and the intimate moments we were able to observe dominate this bearcam year in review.

Cubs!
Two bear families developed a devoted following on the cams. Bears 402 (no nickname) and 409 Beadnose had litters of spring (first year) and yearling (second year) cubs respectively. Even with dense gatherings of bears in the area, 402 and 409 visited Brooks Falls in July with cubs in tow. 402 did have to defend her cubs from other bears.


While 402 added a bit of drama to viewers' lives, 409's yearling cubs had many people noticing a dramatic difference in size among litter mates. One yearling in particular was much smaller than its siblings.

409 and yearling cubs walking near Brooks Falls
Genetic differences and competition for food within the litter are the most likely reasons why one cub from this litter was much smaller than the others.The mother of this litter is bottom center in the photo. The three yearling cubs are all the same age despite their difference in size.

Resilient 469
In early July, a bear arrived at Brooks Falls with an obviously injured leg. The bear, later identified as 469 (no nickname), would place no weight on his left hind leg. However by the end of the month, his injury apparently healed enough so that he could place weight on the injured leg. 469's story is one of resiliency.

Patient Otis
Older bears know the tricks of the trade. They have to. Making a living isn't easy when you have to compete for fishing spots with younger, more dominant bears. 480 Otis captured the attention of many people this summer with his apparent patience at Brooks Falls. He sat at Brooks Falls for long periods of time waiting for more dominant bears to depart so he could utilize the most desired fishing spots, and his patience didn't end there. When he finally occupied his preferred fishing spots he sat and waited and waited for fish to come to him—an apparently profitable strategy. Over almost 20 years, 480 Otis has gained the experience necessary to make a living at Brooks Falls.

480-Otis-in-the-far-pool-at-Brooks-Falls-in-September
480 Otis often looked as if he was doing nothing for hours. He was, however, patiently fishing.

Playfulness
Younger bears are generally more playful than older bears, especially when well fed. On a few separate occasions, two young adult male bears (89 Backpack and 32 Chunk) sparred for extended periods of time. Play is not commonly seen in adult bears, but young bears with certain dispositions will engage in play. By participating in a good wrestling match these bears are honing combat skills that can help them defend or appropriate food or mates in the future.

Underwater Cam

Not all of the wildlife sightings on the cams were bears. In September, an underwater cam near the mouth of the Brooks River provided remarkable opportunities to see the river from a fish's perspective. Bright red sockeye salmon, colorful rainbow trout, and even long-finned arctic grayling were seen swimming by.

A rainbow trout swims by the underwater cam in September.
Rainbow trout were commonly seen on the underwater cam.

Comments
Lastly, comments on explore.org allowed everyone the ability to share their enthusiasm for the bears and discuss bear behavior and biology. Whether it's kids imitating bear behavior,

Comment from Explore.org (kids and Brooks Falls)

…or someone finding comfort by immersing themselves in Katmai,

Comment from Explore.org (cancer victim)

…the comments illustrate the meaningful connections people have made with Katmai bears.

The cams fostered a community of devoted bear watchers, enthusiasts, and Katmai stewards. Rangers at Katmai couldn't be more pleased with the support the bearcams have received. Thanks to everyone, especially those at explore.org, who made the bearcams such a success. You are invited to share your favorite moments in the comments below.


5 Comments Comments Icon

  1. Rosalie - Camanche, Iowa
    December 31, 2013 at 05:46

    Thank you Ranger Mike for taking the time to put this together for the followers of Brooks Falls.. Watching the bears have brought me so much joy.. Looking forward to the coming season for the cams..and of course OTIS

  2. Stephen Brkich - Cedar Park, Texas
    December 31, 2013 at 05:29

    Happy New Year, Ranger Mike. It was a pleasure meeting you, while you where on duty at the lower river, at the beginning of August. Watching the Cams and actually visiting was a great privilege. My wife and I spent our Honeymoon there and can't wait to come back. Until then we will continue to watch the cams to keep up with all the bears. Both you and Ranger Roy have established a great educational tool and brought something, that not many can afford, into a lot of peoples living rooms and in some cases classrooms. I hope you continue this partnership with explore and bring a little bit a nature into peoples living room. See you in 2016.

  3. Rod - Geelong, Victoria Australia
    December 31, 2013 at 04:59

    Thank you all for allowing me the privilege of watching bears in the wild so far away.

  4. Stacey - Grinnell, Iowa
    December 31, 2013 at 04:53

    Thank you for this great summary! This was my first year watching the bears, and this article will help me remember much of what I enjoyed about the experience. I also enjoyed getting to know Backpack--his exuberance and his rock perching (especially late in the season, after many other bears had left the falls) were always a delight. And I also appreciated stalwart Ted, who visited the falls regularly, even in between the salmon runs. Two other highlights: watching bears fish by moonlight when the cams were left on overnight, and seeing eagles (including close up) late in the season. I'm so grateful to the NPS, the rangers, and explore.org for all you do to help us learn about the bears and their environment. Looking forward to the return of the bears (and the arrival of some new ones) in the months ahead!

  5. Barbara - Midland, TX
    December 31, 2013 at 04:16

    I watched bearcam for long periods during the summer. Thank you so much. Some scenes brought tears. I dearly love Alaska after visiting twice, and try to read and see everything that I can about your beautiful state. all your commentary was so helpful. Thanks again. Hope to see more when they return.

 

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Did You Know?

A microblade core from the Preserve.

The first people in Katmai arrived about 9,000 years ago. They left behind artifacts like this one, a core from which small microblades were struck. Expert tool makers set the microblades into the sides of bone arrowheads to increase cutting power.