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Bear & Angler Update

From Ranger Anela

After talking with LE staff and with the platform ranger who was working at the time, the anglers were in the right.

The platform staff member yelled out to the anglers, telling them that the bear was in the area. At the time, they could not wade across because of the family group and limited ability to do so, and they also could not move down the spit because of another bear outside of view. They did right to bunch together and allow the bears to pass. A bear is allowed to approach a person within 50 yards, but the moment that the person takes a step towards the bear within 50 yards, that is when they are breaking the law.

This July, there have been many occasions on corner where the ranger and a group of people needed to bunch up together because there is no safe exit. Grouping up together, allows groups to look big in size, and increases the chance that the bear moves away from them versus standing as individuals. This is a last resort option when a group finds themselves in close proximity to bears with no good exit.

With lots of bears utilizing the lower river due to easy fishing access, this poses a lot of challenges to us as we manage the lower river. More family groups and subadults are economizing on the noncompetitive access to fish. We want to allow access to their food resource and their home, but this poses a lot of challenges to visitors to Brooks Camp. There was a 6-hour bridge closure because bears were always within 50 yards of corner or the bridge. Managing visitor expectations and allowing visitors to view bears safely have been extremely difficult to balance. Many visitors have not even been able to cross the bridge during their trip to see the falls.

In addition, Brooks Camp originally started as a fly fishing lodge. Historically, this area has been used as an area of subsistence by Alaska Natives because of its salmon run. They would chase off the bears from this area. As you know the bear population has not always been here in Brooks. It wasn’t till recent history that bears began to return in large numbers to Brooks Camp. Allowing the tradition of fly fishing in the river and managing the bear population has always been a very delicate balance.

I hope that the cam viewers understand that the staff is doing the best that they can to manage the river. A lot of times, the telephoto of the camera skews distances and there are many times when anglers and visitors (and even rangers) don’t have an option to move and need to stand their ground. There are also a lot of things that the camera doesn’t capture, like the bear hecticness in camp: lots of families being pushed around by subadults into other families, causing this hectic chain reaction throughout camp.

I hope this clears things up! Let me know if you have any more questions. As always, we so appreciate the dedication you have to Brooks and its amazing wild brown bears. We are so lucky to have people who support Katmai in this way. If there are any other issues, please feel free to reach out. We want to protect and preserve Katmai for generations to come, and we can’t do it without you!

Watch bear cam live here!

 

  • https://www.pinterest.com/donnab10/ DTB

    Excellent explanation, thank you R. Anela. Hopefully this will calm some jets in the chat room and help people to refocus on the wonderful sights and not just the negative guesses. You guys are awesome.

  • Baby peas

    Thank you Ranger Anela. I agree with DTB, this was a timely blog because there are many new viewers who aren’t familiar with how people and bears have coexisted for years at Brooks. We really appreciate all you and the other Rangers do to bring this experience to so many!

  • Dh27705

    thanks for all the info you provided Ranger Anela. You ALL have a demanding job.

  • AK Guide

    Bravo, many thanks for your fine service.

  • CAdonna1

    Well spoken Anela. Thank you so much for all you do!

  • Alice BRT

    You all are the Cat’s Pajamas, the Bee’s Knees…Thank you for all that you do!

  • Dasimi

    Thank you Ranger Anela….

  • andyfl

    I don’t think we have seen even one bear that has even been interested or disturbed by the people. Maybe you all have there? IDK. In fact just the opposite. They seem to know people are added protection. Call me crazy I think they like having us humans around. Keep up the Great Job Ranger Anela!

  • CTBear

    Thanks Ranger Anela! As always, you and the other Rangers are awesome :)

  • calliopejane

    Thanks for this article. It is indeed crazy there this summer and the cams do not show all the bears on the lower river or any of the chaos the subadults are wreaking in the camp. I was amazed at how hard the rangers, volunteers, bear techs and LE are having to work this year. My closest encounters were walking out of the bathroom to see 171 standing up jaw popping at a subadult 3 feet from the doorway and having 503 and 151 pop up out of the grass while playing near the beach. No matter how hard to you try it seems you are going to have a close encounter this year. I greatly appreciated all of the staff who worked so hard to find a balance between letting us enjoy our trip and giving way to the bears.

  • Allie Eska

    Thank you, Anela, for writing & explaining the difficulties faced by the rangers daily. You all do a fantastic job!

  • Deborah-TX (2014)

    Very nice to know all the details and the training and planning that goes on “out of view” to keep everyone safe

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeanner/ Jeanner

    Hi Anela, I hope you don’t mind if I chime in with some additional information based on a comment I wrote a few weeks ago, since some people may not be aware of this aspect of Brooks Camp history. I think it’s important to remember that the Brooks River area was added to the existing Katmai National Monument in 1931 “for the protection of brown bear, moose, and other wild animals.” Whatever the bear population was at that time, it was significant enough that the boundaries of the original 1918 monument were expanded to protect them. The concessions permit for the development of Brooks Lodge was not granted until nearly 20 years later, in 1950. Although recreational fishing contributed to the development of Brooks Camp and was the initial attraction for visitors, recreational fishing is not mentioned in the enabling legislation until ANILCA in 1980, when fishing is listed as one of several recreational activities that are permitted. Fishing is never mentioned in the legislation as a reason this area was protected. The enabling legislation can be found at the end of Katmai’s Foundations document at https://www.nps.gov/katm/learn/management/upload/KATM_Foundation_Statement_December2009.pdf.

    As both an employee and a visitor at Brooks Camp, there were many times when I was aware that my behavior was impacting the bears. I saw bears glance up at me uneasily while passing below the viewing platform, I saw bears stall out on the beach when a wall of people were blocking their line of travel, and I unsuccessfully tried to wrangle a large group of people from a guided group who refused to back out of the way of 402 and her 4 spring cubs as they attempted to make their way to the Naknek Lake beach. There are many subtle signs of bear behavior that cannot be detected while watching the cams but everyone who visits Brooks Camp has the opportunity to make choices in the hopes of impacting bear activity as little as possible. Choosing to stick to established trails and bear view from the viewing platforms is one way to do that. As has been said many times, most of the bears who use Brooks River are habituated to the presence of people. But there are some non-habituated bears who still need to access this critical early season feeding area and I believe it’s our responsibility as humans to make space for them to do so.

    • RangerAnela

      @ranger_j:disqus thanks for your added insight and history. Feel free to chime in at any time! It’s always appreciated. I’m never on the chat enough to catch you at the same time. I was surprised to see my response to an e-mail about a particular event where anglers standing their ground at the mouth of the river would be turned to a blog. Removed from the original event, it loses some context.

      Every visitor to Brooks Camp takes on the responsibility to protect and preserve the resource with their actions. Whether it is the angler who fishes the river or the observer who views from the platform, they have the freedom to enjoy the park in the way that they value. It is my hope that all of our visitors, after attending bear orientation, are equipped with the knowledge to make the right decisions to reduce their impact.

      Hopefully we can chat over a cup of tea someday to mull over the intricacies of camp! I’m still learning boat loads about the operation. There’s always a different surprise each day it seems. I just reached the part of the “In the Heart of Katmai” where they go over low water year in 1997. Sounds very familiar :) Take care!

  • Amanda Thompson

    Thanks for this information Anela. You guys have a tricky job with massive responsibility which you do so kindly and well. I always enjoy hearing the reasons behind why certain jobs are completed certain ways and you guys are clearly doing the best for all creatures including the humans. Thanks again.

  • Luv2fishdarlene

    Ty Ranger Anela!!!!!!!!!

  • cam1981

    Great analysis of the delicate balancing act between humans and bears using the lower river area. Thank you!

  • Sandra Taylor

    I feel privileged to be able to follow the adventures of the Katmai bears, and I so appreciate the way in which you rangers are able to balance sharing these wonderful bears with us, and yet allowing them to remain wild. This is my second year watching and “snapshotting” many different animals on explore.org, and I also follow the American Eagle federation web cams. As an 60+ year old animal lover I have learned more in the last year about animals than I had learned the entire rest of my life! I had no idea how truly magnificent these creatures are in their habitats.

    • JeanneB

      Exactly. I did not have a clue about many of the wildlife I love now because of Explore.

  • Pansy2

    Thanks for everything Explore CamOps and Rangers do for our bear viewing pleasure!

  • texanrhonda

    Thank you!

  • Priya

    Thank you, Ranger Anela!

  • Chippers Mom AK

    thank You! I would love to hear more stories about what tales happen in Camp.. you all ROCK. We need you! thanks for WHAT you are all doing!

  • amazed

    Managing bears and people, Oh My! Hats off to all the staff.