Bears. Salmon. Volcanoes. Wilderness. Culture. These are the terranes of Katmai. Each is distinct, but in combination these features create a place like no other. Read about the uniqueness of Katmai in this blog.
From 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. June 15 to August 15, the platforms and boardwalks at Brooks Falls are closed. In order to better understand how bears use the falls when no humans are present, I assisted Brooks Camp’s bear monitor, Leslie Skora, with an overnight monitoring session from 10:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m., then again from 4 to 7 a.m.
Climbing out of my tent at 5:30 a.m. revealed an absolutely stunning morning. The water-striped mud flats of the low tide in Hallo Bay reflected the morning sun and silhouetted clamming bears off in the distance. As we hiked along the beach to the observation spot, my camera gear, tripod, and large lens made it’s presence known on my back. I wasn’t going to regret not bringing something with me on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Before today, I had never laid eyes on a brown bear. My job today? Fly out to the coast of Katmai National Park to take photos and video of the team that has been collaring brown bears as a part of the Changing Tides project.
Near Brooks Falls, a complex of elevated boardwalks and wildlife viewing platforms stand in the forest. Viewed from a distance, or even from the perspective of a person standing on the walkway, it may seem that the walkways eliminate our impact on bears. While the boardwalks and viewing platforms have substantially reduced bear-human conflicts near the falls, they haven’t eliminated them. Sometimes a bit of restraint and sacrifice, on our part, are needed to help bears.
As I prepare to head back out to Hallo Bay I’ve been rereading my field notes and reminiscing on the highlights from my first trip. Watching bears in Hallo Bay has shown me that there’s always more to learn.
402, a well known adult female, returned to Brooks River yesterday with a litter of not one, not two, not three, but FOUR spring cubs. 402, therefore, faces a huge challenge. Will she be able to meet it?
One year ago, bearcam favorite 130 Tundra was found dead at the cut bank along Brooks River. Her death provided another example that bears face significant risk in their daily lives. What causes the death of a bear?
Bears in Katmai grow large, very large. For example, adult males average 700-900 pounds (272-408 kg) in mid summer! By October, well fed, large-bodied males can tip the scales above 1000 pounds (454 kg). Why do male bears grow so large? What advantages does large size confer to male bears? Competition for food and mates may provide answers.
Bears at Brooks River are assigned numbers for monitoring, management, and identification purposes. Inevitably, some bears acquire nicknames from staff and these nicknames are shared with the public, but naming wild animals is not without controversy. Is it appropriate to name wild animals?
2014 proved to be an exciting year for fans of the Brooks River bears. Let’s recap the drama and events captured on the Brooks River. These are my choices for 2014’s most notable bearcam moments. Which story resonated most with you?
Who's on bottom of the bear hierarchy? Young subadult bears, like bear 500, that's who. On Sunday, October 5, part of an extended chase was seen on the River Watch bearcam. 435 Holly’s adopted yearling chased subadult bear 500 while Holly’s spring cub and Holly herself tried to keep up.
July 1 was a busy day at Brooks Camp. Late in the evening, while many rangers were still dealing with 402’s yearling cub in a tree at Brooks Lodge, another ranger discovered a dead bear near the cut bank on the Brooks River.
In the Brooks Camp Visitor Center, a bear pelt hangs in the rafters. This pelt belonged to a young female bear nicknamed Sister. After obtaining food and equipment from people, Sister became the last bear destroyed at Brooks Camp. This is a story of mistakes and loss. It teaches a lesson that we should never learn the hard way again.
Brown bear cubs are from 1/3 to 1/10 of that predicted for female mammals of comparable size. Why would brown bears give birth to such small and vulnerable offspring? Like many natural phenomenon, no one knows for sure but biologists have some ideas.
It was a great year on the bearcam with many memorable moments. 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.
One adaptation that has evolved in some mammals is hibernation. Hibernation is a state of dormancy that allows animals to avoid periods of famine. It takes many forms in mammals, but is particularly remarkable in bears.
Every once and a while, you may see people on the floating bridge while a bear is nearby. The people in the photo above were not behaving appropriately for the unique bear viewing opportunities at Brooks Camp. The wildness of the bears and the wonderful experiences for people at Brooks Camp is dependent on everyone giving bears space.
Watching the bearcams on explore.org gives anyone with internet access an opportunity to experience the dynamics of a bear’s world. We get to observe the playfulness of cubs, the intimacy of mating, and the satiation of hunger when a bear eats a salmon. However, when we watch the cams, we will also see some unpleasant aspects of the bears’ world.