Hi and welcome to our weekly Bear Cam blog. We will be publishing this blog every week with a review of the previous weeks Bear Cam highlights. Brought to you by your bear cam Mods, LaniH and GABear.
Welcome to September at Brooks river. We have started to see the return of some bears. This past week we have seen 474, 284, 719, 32 Chunk, 879, 274 Overflow, 480 Otis and 435 Holly and her yearling cubs all returned to Brooks. 879 may be a new bear to those that have just started to watch the cams. He is a fall bear only and he has a couple of unique qualities. First he does not like to swim under the bridge, he instead walks around it. He also makes a lot of noise when he eats, he groans and breaths heavy. He is a large bear with a very long neck and tall ears. He’s most often seen snorkeling in the Lower River area, but the last couple years, he has been spending time fishing at the falls as well. This weeks highlight video can be seen here.
32 Chunk returned on September 4. He scent rubbed the poor little tree on the island and then proceeded to ensure his place in the hierarchy. He had words with 151 Walker, displacing Walker a couple times, and also tried to bluff charge 804 on the lip while he was in the jacuzzi.
32 Chunk was unable to displace 879 in the far pool, they had words twice and 879 refused to budge either time. 32 Chunk has yielded to 747 whenever he has shown up.
A sow and three cubs were spotted on Dumpling Mountain this past week. They looked to be grazing on berries.
On September 6, 435 Holly and her yearling cubs returned to Brooks. Holly and her cubs are all looking very fat and happy. They were seen throughout the day on the lower river, they even chased a group of subadults down spit road before going snorkeling.
854 Divot has continued to throw her considerable weight around the falls and has had words with 747, 32 Chunk and 151 Walker. Although 151 Walker was having none of it and actually got into a kerfuffle with her where she ended up on her back in the water. She was fine and both bears walked away uninjured.
480 Otis returned on September 5, he crossed the island and headed over to the far river bank where he sat. Such a sneaky bear, the falls cam was focused elsewhere at the time spoiling any thoughts Otis had of making a Grand Entrance. Cams viewers are continually getting 480 Otis and 755 Scare D Bear confused, since 755 returned this year with a floppy right ear which has been 480 Otis’ trademark. Upon returning from his August hiatus 480’s right ear is not as floppy, seeming to be “propped” up by all the weight gain.
The many subadults have continued to delight and entertain us this week. Having marathon play sessions on the grassy point, the spit and even in the river. Some subadults have even used salmon as playthings. 821 seems to be a 503 in the making, he’s often seen trying to get other subadults to play by rolling over on his back. He was also spotted taking a long nap near the floating bridge.
Not to be outdone 503 has continued to steal the show at the falls. From his many play sessions with 812, 804, 719, 151 Walker, and 274 Overflow, to just rolling around in the river. He never fails to entertain cam viewers and visitors to Brooks alike. He is such a wonderful bear that he even had his very own Ranger live chat devoted to him and his unique story.
Cam viewers were very concerned this past week when a subadult “appeared” to be struggling in the river. We watched this bear put his face in the water and continually turn around for over 9 minutes. Finally the bear came up with a fish. Some speculated that the bear might have gotten stuck on something on the river bottom. Viewers questioned Bearcam Fellow Mike Fitz about this during a text chat. Here is what he said:
“It looks like the bear is trying to find something on the river bottom and can’t quite reach it. Bears are good swimmers, but many don’t know how to dive for food. The water in the lower river is quite deep in places which can make scavenging difficult for some non-diving bears.”
747 continues to add to his already massive size. Usually we see him in the water, but this week he showed up on the land in the Lower River. His large girth is almost hiding his back legs! Seeing how fat 747 and some of the other bears are getting leads to the question: Can a bear be too fat? Explore fellow, Mike Fitz discussed that in this blog. You can read it here.
The Underwater Cam continues to provide great views into life below the surface of Brooks River. On Thursday, we were treated to 435 Holly’s demonstration of how to get a dead fish off the bottom of the river. We are also still seeing a lot of Sockeye Salmon in their bright red spawning color hanging around the Lower River.
We often think of the jacuzzi area of the falls as the domain of adult male bears. The plentiful fish and the late August time when many adult males were not around left the jacuzzi available for many younger, smaller bears to try out. We’ve enjoyed seeing them trying to fight the current and being bounced around since they are too small. Often many subadults are trying it out at the same time. We saw 4 of them all in there together this week, with 854 Divot looking to capitalize on some scraps behind the jacuzzi.
Bear 274 Overflow came back into cam view this week. He is noticeable because he has some small areas of lighter colored fur on his shoulders. He’s been seen playing with 503, and also doing a little begging and waiting for scraps in between snorkeling and fishing on his own.
Subadult 812 has been working on his proficiency at fishing the lip of the falls. This week, he stepped and leaned just a bit too far out and fell off, briefly disappearing in the froth below in front of 32 Chunk, who looked only mildly surprised. 812 shook off and went on his way.
On the night of September 6 we were treated to 10 bears fishing the falls, a rare sight indeed. A good run of silver salmon is likely the reason so many bears are still fishing the falls.
In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen a subadult (or different subdaults) diving completely under the water for lengthy periods of time attempting to catch a fish. While diving behavior is certainly not unheard of, and the Brooks River has a few adult bears that dive, we hadn’t seen a subadult stay submerged for these kinds of times before. The Katmai Bearcams Wikia has a page full of info on diving bears as well as links for numerous videos of Brooks bears that dive. Check out that page here. We looked at a handful of those videos and timed some of the dives to see how they compared with our current subadult. Results are listed below.
This is not a scientific survey. 😉 Times were done with a stopwatch but could be argued as far as when the “dive” starts: when the bears head goes under or when the whole body goes under. Either way, they are some pretty impressive times. There are more videos on the Wiki page for these bears as well as some others who have dived. This is just a sampling of the bears that seemed to have the longest and most fully submerged dive times.
14.76 sec at about the 4:30 mark in this undated video.
10.25 sec and 7.89 sec at about the 36:56 mark in this video from 1992.
6:25 sec and 16.33 at about the 16:00 mark in this video from 1992.
13.35 sec in this video.
9.26 sec and 12.15 sec in this video.
15:30 sec in this video.
Several dives between 9 and 16 seconds in this video.
Several long dives from 8 sec to 10.49 sec starting around 1:19 in this video.
Another dive for 8.12 sec seen in this video.
Dives between 8 and 10 sec in this video.