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!