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.
A recent Yellowstone Science article describes how a focus on individual animals limits our ability to preserve wildlife populations, but this is not true. Naming an animal, referring to its individuality, or connecting with it isn’t a weakness of the human condition or near-sighted. We must recognize the role of the individual in wildlife management, conservation, and especially in public appreciation.
November 23, 2015Posted by: Michael Fitz and Jeanne Roy
Bearcam 2015 ended with startling deaths that highlighted the harsh realities of a bear’s world. The death of two bears, a young cub and an adult male, offered the opportunity to learn from events that people rarely have the opportunity to observe and study.
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.
Picture this: You walk through tall beach grass over a sandy berm and see purple, pink, and yellow wildflowers lining lush sedge meadows. A branch of a nearby creek divides the meadow. In the distance, a wall of snow-capped mountains loom over, broken only by a glacier that has wedged itself between the peaks. What you're imagining isn't some picturesque ad from a travel agency, but the hidden wonder of Hallo Bay.
Even as a resident of Anchorage, I had never heard of Katmai or Brooks Camp before coming to King Salmon. I was unaware of the fact that Katmai had volcanoes and that invasive plants are affecting the national parks and spreading faster than a bear can run. Before arriving in King Salmon, I was a little nervous about going to Brooks camp because even though I am more apprehensive of moose than bears, what could be more nerve-racking than being surrounded by the world’s largest land predators?
What should you expect to see at Brooks River and on bearcam over the next month? While other parts of Katmai fill with bears in August, it’s the opposite at Brooks Camp. August brings bears more opportunities to find food away from Brooks River.
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?
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.
In May 2014 my wife, Ann, and I were vacationing on the southern Oregon coast. Upon checking my email while watching Pacific waves crash against sea stacks I saw an unexpected message from my former Katmai National Park supervisor. Curious, I thought. I have not heard from him in some time. “I know this is a long shot, but would you consider returning to Brooks Camp this summer?” he wrote.
In early July, bear 402 abandoned her yearling cub. Rangers, including myself, were routinely asked, “Will it find another bear to care for it?” My usual response to this question was coldly factual, "Adoption of cubs by another bear is very rare. It has been documented, but is unlikely to happen." However, bears, even young bears, are adaptable and smart. They possess the ability to recognize favorable situations and take advantage of them. 402’s abandoned yearling is no exception.
Kamishak is a long, winding river which empties into Kamishak Bay at the very top of Katmai National Park and Preserve. It has little visitation...by people. I had the opportunity to go for work and spend four nights, five days on this river doing what was later explained to me as "extreme camping."
The Bristol Bay region is some of the largest runs of Pacific salmon in the world. Salmon are the keystone species of Katmai National Park. The Brooks Camp area and Katmai in general would not be what it is today without sockeye salmon. Everything present has been built on salmon and their annual migration from vast oceans to Katmai.
Dominant male bears along the Brooks River gain many advantages over other bears. They can access the most preferred fishing spots when they choose, easily appropriate food from other bears, and have a higher likelihood of courting female bears and siring offspring. Gaining access to food allows bears to grow larger. Growing larger gives bears a greater chance to become reproductively successful.
If and when the public think of Katmai National Park and Preserve, they are increasingly thinking of bears, particularly wild brown bears in relatively large concentrations. From the popular Alaska attractions of Homer and Kodiak many wildlife tours visit a place called Hallo Bay.