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.
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.
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.
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.
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 often looked as if he was doing nothing for hours. He was, however, patiently fishing.
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.
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.
Rainbow trout were commonly seen on the underwater cam.
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,
…or someone finding comfort by immersing themselves in Katmai,
…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.