Why National Parks Can't Ignore Individual Animals

January 20, 2016 Posted by: Michael Fitz

bear sitting at base of waterfall
Is it wrong to connect with individual wild animals like 480 Otis? Does concern for that animal limit our ability to preserve wildlife populations? NPS/M. Fitz.

Individual animals are undoubtedly important to the public (just read about Cecil the Lion) and their stories can be a catalyst for change, but a recent Yellowstone Science article, I Am Not a Scientist, calls this a “myopia.” It describes how a focus on individual animals limits our ability to preserve wildlife populations. I wholeheartedly disagree. In contrast, I argue it is more difficult to know, understand, and appreciate wildlife populations without connecting to individual animals. 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.

Tracking the movements of individual animals forms the foundation of many modern wildlife population studies. The purpose of these studies is not to place the individual above the population or the ecosystem, but to learn what the individual can tell us about the population and the ecosystem. Not only is knowledge and recognition of individual animals important in scientific studies, but it is also extremely meaningful to non-scientists who want to appreciate and connect with the lives of animals.

I’ll admit my bias: I love to identify individual bears at Brooks River. Bears are smart, long-lived, and habitual. Even casual observers can distinguish individual bears through physical and behavioral characteristics. Through my work as an interpretive ranger at Brooks Camp at Katmai, I’ve used information from bear monitoring research and personal observations to understand and learn about bears. (I even wrote a book about it, Bears of Brooks River.) As a result, when I talk to the public about bears, I use my knowledge of individual bears to relate ideas about bear biology, ecology, and population dynamics. The toughness and resiliency of bears may seem detached, abstract, and distant without anecdotes about how a bear survived despite a broken jaw. Without the stories about and life histories of individual bears at Brooks River (some of which we see every year for their entire lives), then much of the information I interpret is less likely to resonate with the public. It is less likely to provide people with opportunities to make meaningful connections with wildlife and become advocates for wildlife populations.

If you have to refer to animal by name or number then so be it. Naming an animal is not myopic and it does not anthropomorphize it. Only the meanings and interpretations of the animal do that. (This is a topic I explored in a previous post, To Name Or Not To Name?) Individual stories and even names provide context and a chance for people to move from specific to broad concepts.

In late October 2015, a nine-month-old cub stumbled and collapsed in view of the webcams on Brooks River. For at least two days, it lay there, dying slowly (necropsy results determined it likely died from infectious canine hepatitis). People were understandably concerned for its welfare. The bearcam chat on explore.org was filled with comments about the cub and its fate. The park received many questions asking how we would help it. Some people demanded we intervene (at one point I was called a “mouse” for not acting). Most, however, watched and conversed with us and other bearcam viewers. Through a variety of platforms, and especially by chatting in real time with webcam viewers on explore.org, we were largely successful in interpreting the situation and providing viewers with the information necessary to at least understand national park policy and why park staff chose not to interfere.

bear family sitting and lying in grass
An ill cub lies on the ground while its mother and sibling sit nearby. People all over the world watched the cub with rapt attention. Screen capture from explore.org and NPS.

This situation allowed us to use the cub’s plight and the mother’s vigilance to interpret important aspects of bear biology and behavior, whether or not bears experience emotions, and NPS policy. We had to focus on the cub’s story. To simply explain that Katmai’s bear population is large and healthy and the death of this cub doesn’t matter to the population would be insensitive and ignore the needs of webcam viewers.

In I Am Not A Scientist, Charissa Reid postulates that thinking of wild animals as individuals causes us to narrow our focus about what national parks are here to protect. In the same paragraph, P.J. White, a biologist at Yellowstone, suggests that visitors can give celebrity status to wild animals. White continues, “Though some argue this helps connect people with nature, it also creates unrealistic expectations and issues for managers tasked with sustaining viable populations of wildlife rather than a zoo-like atmosphere where beloved animals are guaranteed protection." This doesn’t have to be the case. A “zoo-like atmosphere” is much more likely to manifest when wildlife managers, biologists, and interpreters neglect to engage the public in conversations about how individual animals provide context for the larger population.

I am not a scientist. I envy those in science and admire their attention to detail, creativity, and skills. My opinions, in no way, should be misconstrued for a lack of respect for scientists and science. However, do wildlife biologists and park managers not make meaningful connections with the wild animal they’ve studied? They’ve never been surprised or stunned by an animal’s skill or intelligence? They’ve never gleaned insight about a species’ survival instincts by observing an individual animal? They’ve never felt empathy for a suffering animal? Many, if not all, biologists and wildlife managers at national parks make connections with individual animals and that helps them better understand and appreciate wildlife. Why should the public be denied the same opportunities?

Failing to recognize the importance of individual animals in the public mind ignores the reality of human nature—we are more likely to connect to individuals than populations. Naming animals or referring to them individually is not myopic. Using an animal’s life history, characteristics, and behavior to relate information about populations and ecosystems is not wrong either. It is necessary.

bear, bears, Brown Bear, wildlife, national parks, interpretation

38 Comments Comments icon

  1. Naomi S Boak
    January 22, 2020 at 12:28

    Bravo, Mike Fitz. By nature we humans are storytellers. The stories of individual bears create empathy for bears and their environment as a whole. I've found this in my duties as an interpretive ranger and in my own personal life. I have witnessed increased curiosity and stewardship by both visitors and Explore.org bear cam viewers when they became aware of the bears as individuals. And, what a boon to scientific observation to be able to monitor bears over years. The more we know, the more we want to know.

  2. Moses
    March 05, 2019 at 11:57

    Only static when downloaded to test an ip camera (the camera works fine when in a browser, but manycam is hangs) uninstalling if a demo version is not working. running windows 7 64 bit DX11. It probably works for 32 bit?

  3. Victoria
    February 20, 2019 at 02:22

    I don't have ASUS at my 'all programs', what's that about? I'm sure I have a working webcam though, it works it Skype and such, I'd only like to open the webcam software. Any help there? :) darknetmarketslink.com

  4. Eve Hunt
    December 27, 2018 at 03:53

    After reading your article feeling more confident and energetic, thanks for your example which you describing inside article, today is my first visit onyour blog and here i read some informative article, great article.. Regards: eve hunt

  5. Luke
    December 21, 2018 at 04:57

    Yellowstone's argument seems to be you shouldn't personalize the bears as individuals because of the public backlash they received when they killed a bear, really that's the lesson they learned? - Yellowstone have taken a wilderness area that's home to hundreds of wild animals and turned it into Disneyland, don't blame the bears for that or blame them when something goes wrong - what is great about Katmai is that the Bears always come first, and seeing the bears as individuals gives people a greater appreciation for them and busts many of the stereotypes people place on bears - a bear like Otis or 503 would just be another bear in Yellowstone, but at Katmai people can watch them and follow their lives year after year and see for themselves how remarkable the Brooks Falls Bears are, which will make people want to conserve and protect all bears - nothing wrong with that.

  6. February 06, 2016 at 10:57

    I think that seeing the bears as individuals enhances our desire to preserve the entire species. Seeing Otis, Holly and her cubs, Velcro and mom, as well as all the others, makes me want to ensure that there is space for all of them to thrive.

  7. February 06, 2016 at 10:57

    I think that seeing the bears as individuals enhances our desire to preserve the entire species. Seeing Otis, Holly and her cubs, Velcro and mom, as well as all the others, makes me want to ensure that there is space for all of them to thrive.

  8. January 28, 2016 at 11:53

    Excellent piece, R. Mike. Not only is it a clear and cogent opinion piece, but a logical, experience based, and well explained response to the original article. Your response to their response was just as well thought out and written. Good job.

  9. January 27, 2016 at 04:32

    @Yellowstone: Thanks for your reply. I wrote the blog post in response to the Yellowstone Science article in hopes that it would allow us to explore subtleties and generate meaningful dialog. I think we are and I think it is important that we have it in a public forum. The article in Yellowstone Science asserts that it is wrong to name wild animals and to think of them as individuals. It states, “This sort of personalization was, in the long, run, a limiting and negative thing…Thinking of wild animals as individuals causes us to narrow our focus about what national parks are here to protect.” I disagreed with that premise and articulated why in the blog post. • I worked at Yellowstone semi-recently so I am aware of the differences between the two parks and the issues each face. Neither the number of recreational visits nor how people are managed at our respective parks is relevant to the premise of the Yellowstone Science article. The article made no reference to “Blaze” or the management action last summer. If that incident inspired the article, then it should have been addressed in the article. Regardless, that information does not change the article’s premise, which is what I’d like to continue to focus on. • You also ask, “What happens when someone sees a bear for the first time, and the first thing they hear when they join the group of people watching is ‘Oh, that’s Blaze.’?” If you contend that it is wrong for people to hear the name/number first, then this is another point on which I must disagree. As an interpreter, I have sometimes found it necessary to provide that sort of context and use it as a hook to engage the audience before moving the dialog towards other relevant topics and meanings. • Well known (and admired) individual animals are ambassadors for their respective species. As I wrote in the post, this allows park managers, biologists, and interpreters opportunities to steer conversations toward the bigger picture and meet the interests of the public.

  10. January 27, 2016 at 02:45

    Yellowstone National Park, perhaps it might have been better to reference the sad events in that article to give it more perspective. While I hate seeing animals killed, I fully understood the need to take action. The hatefulness that was directed toward your park employees was terrible and uncalled for. My heart goes out to the family of your employee who was killed and I realize the decision to euthanize the bear was not any easy one.

  11. January 26, 2016 at 10:00

    We understand the value of individual animals to conservation: both for scientists and the public. However, some background on what inspired this article may help illustrate Charissa’s central point about the potential dangers of anthropomorphism. Last August we had to take management action against a bear that killed and consumed a hiker. Many people believed it was an animal nicknamed “Blaze:” a grizzly sow with two cubs that had spent a much of the summer in roadside meadows where people could watch them forage, nurse, and play. The notion that a national park would kill such a popular animal sparked outrage. Tens of thousands of people signed a petition against our actions. We received hundreds of emails and phone calls, some of which threatened the lives and families of park employees. By channeling their passion into the preservation of one animal, people lost sight of the population. If everyone who signed that petition instead donated money to preserve grizzly habitat with conservation easements, they could have a much greater effect on the protection of the species. Though both our parks offer remarkable opportunities to view wild bears, Katmai is a very different place than Yellowstone. More people visit Yellowstone in one summer than have ever visited Katmai (records show a little over 1.5 million recreational visits to Katmai since 1923). On top of that, everyone that visits Brooks Camp receives a mandatory “bear etiquette” training course and safety talk with a ranger. We don’t have that luxury. Despite our efforts at education, visitors to Yellowstone might find themselves watching a grizzly bear for the first time without ever hearing or reading anything about bear safety or viewing etiquette. Their excitement at this opportunity can lead to some very unsafe behavior. In another blog post, Ranger Michael Fitz writes: "Names undoubtedly alter the way in which we relate to an animal. For some people, a named bear...may seem less wild, and more pet-like, than an unknown counterpart." With that in mind, what happens when someone sees a bear for the first time, and the first thing they hear when they join the group of people watching is “Oh, that’s Blaze.”? It’s easy to polarize an issue, but maybe there isn’t a one-size-fits-all policy about anthropomorphism. We appreciate meaningful dialogue, and it would probably better serve both the public and wildlife if we explored the subtleties between these articles and the parks they represent.

  12. January 25, 2016 at 11:38

    Thank you, Ranger Mike, for this article and for all you do. The NPS and Explore.org have done a fantastic job of bringing a world that is thousands of miles away into the consciousness of myself and countless others. And recognizing the traits and characteristics of individual bears has played no small role in that endeavor. Knowing even just a few of the stories of the vast number of bears in Katmai makes me want to be sure that the entire population is protected. This in turn leads to a general disposition to want to protect all of our nation's great natural resources. (I do want to say that I agree whole heartedly with the NPS' position of not interfering in the course of nature as in the tragic case of the dying cub.) So thanks again Ranger Mike, the NPS and Explore.org for expanding my world!

  13. January 24, 2016 at 09:04

    I appreciate you bringing this to our attention Ranger Mike. To me, being able to distinguish individual bears ( or any animal) is just as important as knowing the name of that mountain I see in the distance or this river flowing beneath the bridge I am standing on. This familiarity increases my desire to learn all I can and do all I can to protect and preserve the glorious abundance found on my earthly home. I believe we can appreciate both the forest and the trees all at once. What a gift we have been given.

  14. January 22, 2016 at 04:47

    Cogent thoughts Ranger Mike! For what we lack in bears, we make up for in bats - but it is impossible to identify individual bats. It would be of benefit to us all - rangers, scientists, and visitors alike - if we could know, observe, and tell the story of a bat. One notable exception occurred this past summer: of the hundreds of thousands of bats at the Caverns, one was albino! It was an exciting curiosity that provoked us to consider - how did this conspicuous bat escape the attention of a late-summer hawk, who filled its belly with bats each evening?

  15. January 22, 2016 at 09:50

    We visited Brooks Falls in July 2015. Before my visit I did not think about individual bears, just seeing Brown Bears. After an afternoon at Brooks Falls, and taking over 800 pictures( lol), I did recognized that there are individual bears with different personalities and fishing styles. It was the most amazing place I have ever visited. The job you do at Brooks Falls keeping track of each bear with its history is amazing but also teaching us of the survival of each bear is something I never thought about until my visit. Great article and great job at Brooks Falls Ranger Mike!

  16. January 22, 2016 at 08:36

    Thanks for your thoughtful response to a rather one-sided article from Yellowstone. I have been interpreting this exact issue for more than 25 years (10 as the Brooks Camp Manager and another 14 at Glacier National Park). Anthropomorphism has been debated for a long time and from various perspectives (philosophy, ethology, park management, etc.) with the results falling on either side of a plus/minus dividing line. Charles Darwin famously attributed "human-type" emotions to all sorts of organisms, including insects. Behaviorists took over last century and the emphasis in understanding animal cognition made anthropomorphism into the devil. When I was earning my undergraduate degree in ethology, we were taught that only observable behavior counted. Never mention motivation, emotions, mindedness, etc. as the interior life of any animal was off limits. The pendulum has (mostly) swung the other way, with ethologists accepting anthropomorphism at a certain level and using our only (human) perspective as a window into other animals based on an evolutionary continuity between all species. Trying to understand other animals through human perceptions can be done to a certain degree, but we will never know exactly what it is like to be another animal. I like to use the concept of "umwelt," popularized by Jakob von Uexkull. The umwelt is the animal's world based on its senses and what then most interests it. This is where we are so different from bears (visual v olfactory) or say, a tick (mammalian warmth and butyric acid) and where we can make comparisons but not truly understand the other world. We also have to be careful in making comparisons with degrees of value. Every species has evolved senses and survival mechanisms that are successful for that species. So, using words like "better" when comparing senses of species always has to be in context. None of this would be particularly meaningful if all we thought about was a population of animals. We do have to manage for populations, but it is the individual animal that we experience and come to appreciate. It is the observation and appreciation of the commonalities and differences that help us understand the umwelt and that each animal is an individual (genetic heritage, upbringing, learning) and part of a population. At Brooks Camp, it is easy to see this after watching bears year after year and it enriches the experience far beyond the recognition of a Brooks River population. Anthropomorphism can certainly go too far and it is up to scientists and interpreters to watch out for inappropriate uses. If you are interested more in this debate, check out "Minding Animals" by Marc Bekoff (or almost anything else by him) and the new book, "Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel" by Carl Safina. I am so glad to see staff like Mike Fitz facing this subject head on and doing a great job in helping visitors better understand and appreciate this amazing resource.

  17. January 21, 2016 at 10:02

    Thanks, Mike. Watching the cub die at the end of the season and learning about the time, effort, and cost of sending its remains for necropsy prompted me to make a donation to Katmai National Park. I recognized this unfortunate event as an opportunity for scientific inquiry into the death of a cub that had appeared healthy until shortly before it collapsed. It was agonizing watching the process but an unprecedented peek into the death of a cub. I have watched the bear cams on explore.org for three seasons. I admit I'm fond of some of the bears and know their nicknames or numbers, but I am also acutely aware that these bears represent a small fraction of those that roam through the park. I laugh at 410's Olympic napping technique, marvel at Beadnose's expert fishing technique on the lip of the falls and check on whether Otis is in his office. I care about them because I have been allowed to view them on live cameras. To me, they represent the bears of Katmai.

  18. January 21, 2016 at 08:07

    Very well written. I agree with you Ranger like many of the others here. Thank you,

  19. January 21, 2016 at 07:17

    Thank you, for the great article Ranger Mike. I totally agree with you. I have been watching the bear cams ever since they started. By having the bear names &/or numbers, I can distinguish the characteristics between bears more. I appreciate the live Ranger chats, as they are very informative for all of us who want to learn more about the bears. Looking forward to bear cams 2016.

  20. Pat
    January 21, 2016 at 05:30

    I completely agree with your perspective, Ranger Mike. Katmai is such a unique setting in which bears appear every year, sometimes ones who have been identified, some new ones that require hours of observation before being given a number. Watching and getting to know the bears allows us to see how they interact, how they move in the hierarchy, how they survive in such a wilderness. I am so fortunate that I was able to watch these magnificent creatures in 2015 and look forward to 2016. Kudos to you and all the rangers and staff who educate all of us.

  21. January 21, 2016 at 05:28

    Thank you Ranger Mike. We the community of Bear watchers at Brooks appreciate your insight and dedication.

  22. January 21, 2016 at 04:16

    I absolutely agree with Ranger MIke... RM you have such an ability to explain what we are all thinking... and if it weren't for names and numbers of these magnificent bear creatures and my fondness to each of their individual lives and stories... I would never have become so interested in the "bear world" and all that they do. I have become so involved with following the bears of Brooks Camp that I can hardly wait for the cams to return every spring to see how the bears are fairing and who comes out of the dens... and what will happen this year... (ps- it's time to send in my donation for the genetics study this summer... i really thing Otis & Lurch are brothers somehow !!!). Truly, if it weren't for my heartstrings connected to Otis in his office, Backpack on sushi rock, Velcro hanging onto his mom, Mom & the 4 cute cubbies, Grazer and her amazing ears & ability to steal salmon, 410 & her naps, Divot & her wolf snare survival story, the playtime & friendship of Chunk & Backpack... the connections & list goes on & on... Because of all those special connections, my interest now lies with the Bear World and our stewardship for them and this would have never happened without the insight of these individual bear lives, names & numbers and the interpretations of these bear activities by the fantastic rangers MF & RW !!!! I do do better with names than numbers i must say!!! I never knew that i could be so interested in one animal group... but the bears have it!!! They are amazing creatures and I feel extremely privileged to be able to witness them in all their "wild" home ... it has truly made me more aware of the entire animal world. I hope to see every one of our special bear friends in the spring !!!

  23. January 21, 2016 at 03:41

    Ranger Mike, I totally agree with you. Great response. I can not think of a thing to add.You have it covered.

  24. January 21, 2016 at 02:27

    We as a species do relate to individual animals more so than we do to a population. It in turn drives us to learn more about these animals and their habitats. I've learned so much more about many species of animals that Explore.org allows us to view from the comforts of our homes. It has also made more proactive in doing what I can to help these animals, such as becoming more involved with legislation that affects them. Thank you for the great article, Ranger Mike!

  25. January 21, 2016 at 02:15


  26. May
    January 21, 2016 at 01:35

    Thank you Ranger Mike for an excellent article. I have been watching the Brooks Bears for the past three years and have learned so much about their habits and their struggle for survival. Looking forward to season 2016 :-)

  27. January 21, 2016 at 01:06

    I have been fortunate to have been able to take many different bear photography trips, and have met many bears. On one trip in Lake Clark, the guide explained that he did not name bears, because they always seemed to end up with inappropriate names like "Fluffy" or some other cutesy name that made it to easy to forget that these are wild bears who must be treated as wild animals, not pets. While I have many photographs from this trip, my memories are not as sharp as comparable memories from other bear photography trips. This caused me to reflect on how humans record and share information. We do it through stories. We are a narrative loving species. Stories are how we make sense of the world. When you do not name or number the bears, it inhibits our ability to tell rich stories. It also inhibits our ability to connect events from different days, and to recognize behavioral patterns. You are absolutely correct Ranger Mike. Names & numbers help us understand the bears & connect to the species. My return trips to Brooks are made more joyous when I recognize 410 napping, & realize that my first bear trip 15 years ago involved many hours watching her. I am excited to see Otis, and am pleased when I see how big Holly is now. When I see Backpack, I remember how playful he was as a cub, & how protective Holly was. I saw him catch a stunned fish about 1/3 as long as he was, & then watched him play with the fish, not quite sure how to begin eating it. Before long 410 noticed him playing with his food, & swooped in to steal the fish. These stories keep me out on the platforms for hours, watching the bears. The bearcam is an incredible tool that lets us observe the bears over several months. And names & numbers help us understand what we are seeing, & bring us back for more. The Rangers help us take these stories, & weave them into a larger tapestry. I care about Otis, & bears in general. This leads to me learning about salmon & other food sources for the bears; the river; and the forest around us. Before you know it, I have learned about an ecosystem, and suddenly I care whether or not the Pebble Mine project is approved. Ranger Mike is absolutely right. Names & numbers for the bears give the rangers powerful tools for education of the public.

  28. January 21, 2016 at 12:41

    Great article Ranger Mike !

  29. January 21, 2016 at 11:31

    Thank you as always Ranger Mike. I have nothing but respect for your insight ! I have been watching the bear cams for 3 years on explore.org and look forward to every season. I believe part of the education I receive is being able to tell the bears apart, by learning their names, so I can observe each different personality and behavior they all have. The Ranger chats are always informative and fun. I watch several different cams around the world, almost all of them have names associated with the species that you get to observe, As humans I think it helps us connect to each species better. Thank you and all the rangers for your professionalism and compassion to all the animals and the beautiful parks.

  30. January 21, 2016 at 11:31

    Thank you as always Ranger Mike. I have nothing but respect for your insight ! I have been watching the bear cams for 3 years on explore.org and look forward to every season. I believe part of the education I receive is being able to tell the bears apart, by learning their names, so I can observe each different personality and behavior they all have. The Ranger chats are always informative and fun. I watch several different cams around the world, almost all of them have names associated with the species that you get to observe, As humans I think it helps us connect to each species better. Thank you and all the rangers for your professionalism and compassion to all the animals and the beautiful parks.

  31. January 21, 2016 at 11:27

    We as humans are storytellers. We understand our past and work toward a better future through stories. Learning and observing the stories of these individuals helps us understand the species as a whole. Bravo to the NPS and Explore.org for using the power of storytelling to further science and conservation.

  32. January 21, 2016 at 11:05

    Great article, and completely agree with Ranger Mike. The difference of talking about something in the abstract and generic terms ("bears are ___") and something specific helps us understand the world in ways that are unimaginable. I started watching the cams in 2015, and what started off as more of a curiosity became a connection, not just with the bears I see on the screen but with bears and nature overall. For example, I would never have thought about bears having individual characteristics with the capacity to think rather than simply react until I watched the cams. I can make a generic statement like "mother bears take care of their cubs" but would have zero frame of reference until I saw 273 and Velcro, 435's family dynamic and the illness and death of 451's cub. The experience completely changed how I view the world, bears and beyond. Thank you to all of the rangers, Katmai National Park, Explore.org and, most of all, the bears of Katmai for helping me open my eyes.

  33. January 21, 2016 at 10:44

    Great article Ranger Mike. I have learned so much watching the explore sites. I especially love the Ranger chats you do and am glued to the monitor as I learn not only about the bears, but the history and geology of the Katmai area. I watched as nature took its course with the little ones on the Osprey site and the loss of our little bear and big bear this past season. The chatters on both sites are knowledgeable, compassionate and are great observers that compliment the window to the world we are able to see through explore! I thank you!

  34. Jim
    January 21, 2016 at 08:09

    Excellent article Ranger Mike! Well written and insightful. I have had the pleasure of watching the Brooks Bears for the past three years and have learned a lot about their habits and their struggle for survival in a wild, unforgiving setting. In addition to my own observations, I have learned a great deal about many facets of their existence from you and the other rangers during the "Chats". My thanks go out to you, the other rangers and to Explore for giving us this opportunity!

  35. January 21, 2016 at 07:13

    Thank you for that Ranger Mike. I also agree with you. Cam viewers would have a difficult time having conversations about the bears if we can't name or number them. How would you even describe which bear you are talking about. You would have to describe their characteristics every time you want to refer to them which is tedious and time consuming. Katmai is unique in that were are watching and having discussions with the cam operators about the individual bears. This was my first year watching and I didn't post much but I read all the ongoing conversations and most of the discussions were conversations about different individual bears and for many different reasons. The second point I want to make is what a difference it makes having the ranger chats throughout the summer. I found myself always wanting more so I also watched all of 2014's ranger chats too. Now I find myself worrying about how the environment will negatively impact on them in the coming years. I think people understand how different we are from them and really we are only watching them from a distance anyway. It is good that the public can see these beautiful animals without having to watch them in a zoo.

  36. January 20, 2016 at 09:39

    Thank you Ranger Mike for writing this excellent article. I agree with you in all that you said and it makes me so grateful to have thoughtful, caring individuals like yourself as rangers. I believe that names, or numbers either one give "touchability" to animals in a way that, if we were watching without the benefit of one of those, we would not care as much what happened to the whole population. It is in holding those individual animals close to our hearts that we learn and become enlightened so that we want to save the whole species and their habitat as well. The lessons learned from #451 and her remaining cub were priceless in understanding the behavior of brown bear mothers. Maybe not all brown bear mothers would act in the same way but the fact that some do is invaluable knowledge. I will never forget her or the wonderful caring of the rangers for the feelings of all of us who watched with broken hearts. And the same with beloved #868. His number will always be in my heart. Thank you for all you do for the Brooks River bears and for taking the time to teach viewers so much with your great Chats and tours of the river. I appreciate that you make opportunities to help us learn about salmon and actually show them on the camera. You guys are the best.....Someone once said that "In the end, we save what we love, we love what we understand, we understand only what we have knowledge of" Having numbers and/or names for the bears at Katmai help us to love, learn about and therefore save, not just one bear , but the whole population of bears.

  37. January 20, 2016 at 09:27

    I completely agree with your view point on this issue. I think Charissa Reid is short sighted and out of touch as she gives little to no credit to the general public who love wildlife and want to preserve their environment. It is through our connection to bears like Holly who adopted a cub, Otis with his patient fishing style and 856 with his alpha, cowboy walk that we come to understand the complexity and magnificence of wild animals. The death of the cub and beloved Wayne Brother, 868, touched our hearts and showed us the difficulty of surviving in a harsh world. Our desire to learn more leads to donations to DNA projects and the National Parks as a whole. Naming a bear or calling it by number enhances the joy when we watch them go about their daily lives on the bear cams and when we visit Katmai National Park. It is exciting to be able to identify individual bears by behavioral characteristics as it teaches us to appreciate how they adapt and learn survival skills. From begging to stealing to snorkeling, the different styles of getting a meal are educational as well as vastly entertaining. Your bear book and play by play live videos are a terrific gift to people who want to learn about bears and might not be able to visit Brooks Falls in person.

  38. January 20, 2016 at 06:31

    Ranger M. Fitz, Yes, I believe your opinion and intellectual professionalism, on this subject matter, is not only correct! But, I am personally proud to know, that my National Park Service (NPS) has such employees (as yourself) in the position of Interpretive Ranger. With the foresight, will and knowledge to make such a sound and thoughtful statement on the subject matter. I could not agree with you more!! More simply put, some NPS animals need to be numbered or named, especially the iconic brown/grizzly bear. They're the patriarchs & matriarchs, and our ambassadors. To nature, wildlife and intertiwned with our national historical cultural heritage. In such a role of significance, why would we lose? With failure of not bringing that human element to them. By way of respect, of a name or a number of individual recognition. So glad to know our Katmai bears and wildlife are in such thoughtfully caring hands.

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