2014 Bearcam Year In Review

December 17, 2014 Posted by: Michael Fitz

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?

New Mothers
Well known bears like 402 and 435 Holly arrived at Brooks River with cubs, but bearcam fans witnessed three other female bears—132, 171, and 813—who may never have raised cubs before.

Male bears play no role in raising offspring so the burden of raising and protecting cubs is solely on the shoulders of the mother. Through these three females we could observe the trials and tribulations of new mother bears.

Bear 171 and her two small spring cubs
Bear 171 was one of the many females seen raising cubs along the Brooks River this summer. (NPS/M. Fitz)

Death of 130 Tundra
Late in the day on July 1, a bear carcass was discovered near the edge of the Brooks River. Photos of the bear were identified as 130 Tundra, one of the more commonly seen bears on the cams. 130’s death was another example of the hard lives that bears lead.

130 Tundra near Brooks Falls in late June 2014
130 Tundra was a bearcam favorite who died in 2014. (NPS/M. Fitz)

A Rare Adoption
In late June, bear 402 arrived at Brooks River with one yearling cub. This cub became separated from 402 several times, including one day where it spent 10 hours in a tree at Brooks LodgeIt was subsequently abandoned by 402.

As an independent 1.5 year old, it faced a great deal of obstacles in order to survive the summer. By late July, however, this yearling found an adoptive mother in 435 HollyHis new mother appeared to treat the adopted yearling as one of her own and even nursed him along with her spring cub. Bears are typically selfish creatures, but they are highly individualistic. 402’s abandonment of the yearling and Holly’s subsequent adoption of it exemplifies the individuality of bears.

435 Holly shares fish with her adopted yearling
435 Holly (right) would often allow her adopted yearling (left) to take fish from her. (NPS/M. Fitz)

Dominant 856
2014 marked the fourth consecutive summer when 856 sat on top of the bear hierarchy at Brooks River. Maintaining a high position in the bear hierarchy is very advantageous, but how long will 856’s reign last? There are always other bears looking to ascend the hierarchy, and each wants the same access to food and mates. Is 2014 the last year that this bear will have his choice of fish and females?

856 standing near Brooks Falls
856 surveys his domain at Brooks Falls. (NPS/M. Fitz)

Wire Snare Removed from 854 Divot
This was one of the most stressful events that rangers and biologists encountered in 2014. On July 28, bear 854 Divot arrived at Brooks Camp with a wire snare tightly wrapped around her neck. A team of park staff were able to remove the snare two days later, possibly saving her life. You can read a detailed summary of events and watch a video of the snare’s removal.

854 Divot walking on the shore of Naknek Lake
By mid October, 854 Divot appeared fat and healthy. (NPS/M. Fitz)

Bear 500 Learning to Live Independently
Young bears receive no sympathy from other bears. Bear 500, likely 409 Beadnose’s offspring, was learning to live the life of an independent, subadult bear—acting playful, avoiding larger bears, learning to fish, testing boundaries. 500 will learn many more lessons about life as she grows.

500 standing at the edge of the Brooks River
The young subadult bear 500 was often on alert, because she was easily displaced by other bears. (NPS/M. Fitz)

Some of these stories are ordinary, some are more extraordinary and uncommon, but they all highlight how bears sacrifice as mothers, lead lives as individuals, experience separation, dominate others, suffer from injury, die unexpectedly, and learn to be independent. What a year 2014 was! How will 2015 compare?

Thanks again to the staff of explore.org and the volunteer camera operators around the country.  Bearcam fans everywhere and I sincerely appreciate your efforts. Don’t forget, you can still watch the Brooks River all winter on the Lower River Bearcam

bear, Brown Bear, Brooks River, bearcam, year-in-review

25 Comments Comments icon

  1. June 13, 2015 at 09:41

    Love the story. Anxious to see this new year unfold and then watch it amaze and surprise us!

  2. December 19, 2014 at 01:29

    Thanks so much Ranger Mike. I would add how exciting it was to see our Thanksgiving bear, still hanging out and stuffing his face. I also would add how great it was to watch Backpack hanging out on his rock. Too cool for school. Thank you for a great year.

  3. December 19, 2014 at 07:25

    Thanks Ranger Mike! I can't wait until spring-ish to see our bears again. One event I'll never forget happened shortly after I started watching the cams. Popeye and Amelia's lovefest.:D Thanks to Explore.org, all the Rangers and everyone that makes bringing bears into my home possible.

  4. December 18, 2014 at 09:40

    2014 was a very exciting year! I would only add all the great live chats we got to see ! From Charlie & Chris to all our special Rangers. I learned so much ! I know it takes a lot of extra effort to enable us to see those, & for that I Thank all who were involved!

  5. December 18, 2014 at 09:24

    thank you ranger Mike for this Year in Review.It sure was a memorable year.. I got to see some of the well known bears and A few rangers while I was there in June 2014, Maybe I will get to meet you next time I show up at Brooks Falls.. I appreciate all you rangers do for us on the Bear cams.. Have a Beary Merry Christmoose and a Happy and healthy New Year

  6. December 17, 2014 at 10:50

    Sad to see the bear season end, but so many wonderful memories! Great article! Thank you Ranger Mike!and everyone at Katmai and Explore.

  7. December 17, 2014 at 09:38

    @Michael Fitz, thank you for considering Ted. Let's hope he shows up next season to make the review :) I'm sure you already expect me to be bugging y'all the minute you get back to camp right? 😊

  8. KAT
    December 17, 2014 at 07:35

    This year has been exceptional at Brooks Camp as highlighted by you; so many emotional events that drew thousand of people from around the world into this magical place called Katmai! Thank you to the Rangers who enriched our experience on a regular basis. Ranger Jeanne for popping in on the chat to identify bears both in June/July and September. Ranger Leslie for following Divot in your PJs. Ranger Mike for your "breaking news" coverage of the "cubadult" and Holly and her amazing story. Ranger Roy for chatting with us and taking the controls of Dumpling Mountain Cam for some incredible volcano adventures; not to mention the epic full moon rise!! All the Rangers and Staff of Brooks and King Salmon for the incredible mission to remedy what could have been a tragedy caused by the carelessness of humans. The Rangers Chats were always both entertaining and educational. What an amazing year this has been and I look forward to 2015 while I enjoy the beauty of Brooks and Katmai over the winter. From the bottom of my heart ~ THANK YOU♥

  9. December 17, 2014 at 06:56

    This summer was an eventful, emotional experience. Your top choices are my top choices. In addition, Backpack's resting and balancing on rocks in the river and Otis in his office. We love all of these bears and are saddened when one is lost, hurt, abandoned, or dies. Good Night dear Tundra. May you rest among the stars and forage for salmon in the heavens forever.

  10. December 17, 2014 at 06:55

    @Amalia: I considered mentioning the absence of 489 Ted in the post, since his absence was noticed by so many people. If he returns next summer, that story will most certainly make the 2015 review.

  11. December 17, 2014 at 06:54

    I’m glad that several commenters mentioned the ranger chats. Trust me, Roy and I don’t go live because we like to be on camera. (Well, maybe Roy does sometimes, but I digress…) Our goal through the cameras is to give everyone a meaningful experience and if live chats with rangers helps to do that, then we’ll host as many as we can.

  12. December 17, 2014 at 06:45

    Nice recap, Ranger Mike! Just started watching the amazing bears of Katmai in September. Can't wait for spring 2015. Thanks for all you do!

  13. December 17, 2014 at 06:44

    Ranger Mike your list is very complete but I would add three items. The wolf and the bears fishing was certainly an interesting tale. Explore and the park service working to keep 1 cam running through the winter to deepen the knowledge base of the bears and other animals at Katmai would be the second item. The fellowship between bear watchers, camera operators, the park service and Explore that gave us new insights (like the Wiki to keep track of bear sightings) plus many remarkable moments like the super moon, the volcanoes, bears on Dumpling, and the mystery critter(moose or wolf?) have made it a wonderful 6 months for me. Looking forward to more adventures everyday.

  14. December 17, 2014 at 06:27

    We all enjoyed watching 500 "Indy" this year!

  15. December 17, 2014 at 06:25

    Such an extraordinary year at Brooks. I still can't believe that explore.org allows us the privilege of witnessing this every day in our homes. Thanks so much to Charlie, the rangers, everyone at explore, and all members of the bear cam community. I have learned so much from #bearcam, and I look forward to being amazed all over again when the bears return next year.

  16. December 17, 2014 at 05:58

    What a wonderful blog. The memories bring tears of both joy and sadness. RIP sweet Tundra. What a blessing for me to actually see Divot a short time later with her wound looking so much better. I would like to add one major story here...A girl from Cali planned for two years to make a special trip to Brooks just to be able to see Ted in person and well, you all might know how the story ended :( Ted went MIA. Hope to see you again someday Bears of Brooks :) Sweet bear dreams for now.

  17. December 17, 2014 at 05:58

    Every day was exciting watching and worrying about the Bears. I am looking forward to 2015!

  18. December 17, 2014 at 05:51

    2014 was a wonderful year ! I would only add all the great live chats we got to see.From Charlie & Chris to of course our very special Rangers.I learned so much. Thank you !

  19. December 17, 2014 at 05:51

    I have thoroughly enjoyed bear cam this year one of my favourite bears is holly and will be very interesting to watch next year.One other highlight that I have enjoyed this year is the ranger talks about the bears and how they fish for salmon I hope to continue to follow bear cam next year Thankyou all so much for the wonderful wotk that you do.

  20. December 17, 2014 at 05:44

    Great article and reminded me of the many events this year brought us via the live bear cams !

  21. December 17, 2014 at 04:59

    Best summer ever.

  22. December 17, 2014 at 04:48

    2014 was a very special bear year here at Brooks because of all the reasons you just explained:0)and we got to see it all.Thank you

  23. December 17, 2014 at 04:20

    I just learned about Explore.org and the bear cams in July 2014 and I am hooked. The rangers, bear cam community and the loyal bear fans are truly amazing. Thanks for all of the knowledge and sharing all of this beauty with all of us. Can hardly wait for the spring/summer of 2015.

  24. December 17, 2014 at 04:00

    This year had been such surprising for us at cams and for you Rangers, many things happend we all not expected...amazimg, beautiful, and sadness in the bear world....but such wonderful to be part of...my highlight are the removal from snare from 854 Divot and the real never expected addoption from 402 yearling from 435 Holly!!! this Fam it will very interesting to see next season if they are arrive together at Brooks again.....and the other highlight is to learn from you Rangers about the bears!!!! TY much!!!

  25. December 17, 2014 at 03:42

    It sure was an amazing year in the bear world!

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