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?
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 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 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 Lodge. It 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 Holly. His 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 (right) would often allow her adopted yearling (left) to take fish from her. (NPS/M. Fitz)
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 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.
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.
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.