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Bears and Humans at Brooks River

by Mike Fitz

Across their worldwide range, from Europe to Alaska to the Rocky Mountains, brown bears live as omnivores. They have one of the most diverse diets of any mammal species and plants form the bulk of their diet in many ecosystems. Even Katmai’s bears, famous for fishing habits, utilize plants for energy and nutrition throughout much of the spring and summer. Despite the reliance on plant foods, however, their digestive tract remains largely that of a carnivore, unable to digest and extract much energy from coarse plant foods–a constraint on their lifestyle that is tied to their evolutionary legacy.

Similarly, the ways in which people use Brooks Camp are also tied to its past. The development of facilities at the river and an increase in visitation over the last several decades has created many situations in which people and bears often come into close contact. Many bearcam viewers commonly wonder, what is permitted at Brooks Camp and how might we reduce our potential impacts on brown bears?

In this post, I hope to provide some insight into those questions. Importantly I want to further the conversation about bear and human interactions at Brooks Camp and provide some context on how it became a world-famous bear viewing destination. At the bottom of the post, you have the opportunity to comment, ask questions, and express your concerns. Let’s avoid posting photos or videos of instances you think were rule violations, but it is OK to describe situations if that helps me answer your question. Throughout the rest of the bearcam season, this can serve as a running conversation on the history, management, and legacy of the changing dynamic between bears and people at Brooks River.

A Very Short History of Brooks Camp

The human history of Brooks River begins nearly 5,000 years ago when people first established campsites here to hunt large animals like caribou. Since then Brooks River has become one of the most continuously occupied places in Alaska.

Katmai National Monument was established in 1918 to protect the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and the area devastated by the 1912 Novarupta-Katmai eruption, the largest of the 20th century and fifth largest in recorded history. Although the Brooks River area was not included in the original monument boundaries, explorers who came after the 1912 eruption noted area’s potential wildlife values, especially bears. The monument was nearly doubled in size in 1931 “for the protection of the brown bear, moose, and other wild animals,” and included the Brooks River area. The 1931 proclamation did not mention Alaska Native residents or include any provisions that allowed for their continued use of the area, even though the area was not unoccupied at the time. The monument boundaries were further adjusted by other presidential proclamations, then in 1980 the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) set Katmai’s current boundaries and changed its designation to a national park.

The agency tasked with managing the original monument, the National Park Service (NPS), tried to secure funding for a ranger at Katmai but was unsuccessful for many decades after the 1918 proclamation. Only three NPS employees had visited the monument before the NPS issued a concession permit for Brooks Lodge, which opened for business in 1950 at the mouth of Brooks River. Along with the lodge, Katmai’s first ranger arrived that summer. 

The original Brooks Lodge was very small and catered primarily to anglers. Beginning in the 1960s, especially after the development of a road leading from Brooks Camp to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, more and more people other than anglers began to visit. This trend continues today. While fishing remains a popular activity, bear viewing and photography have superseded fishing and are by far the most popular activities at Brooks Camp. 

A Few Rules

No one knows how many bears lived in Katmai National Monument in the early to mid 1900s, but the population was likely much lower than today due to hunting, fewer salmon in the Naknek River watershed, and the impacts of the 1912 eruption. So few bears used Brooks River in the 1950s that seeing one or even their tracks was a notable event. In the late 20th century, greater protections for brown bears (hunting for example was not permitted in the national monument) likely led to steady increases in the bear population of Katmai and the Alaska Peninsula. In the last 20 years, the number of total independent bears using the river has ranged from a high of 114 in 2009 to a low of 40 in 2016. Last year, bear monitoring staff observed 62 different bears regularly using Brooks River. The increase in bear numbers at Brooks River has led to a changing suite of rules to protect bears.

We often think of park regulations as something intended for human safety, but many, if not most, regulations are written primarily to protect park resources, especially in the case of Brooks Camp. Sometimes the bearcams capture footage of questionable human behavior. Watching this unfold can be stressful and frustrating. However, it’s important to place the behavior of people in context with the park’s rules. (Please also refer to a more thorough summary on the park’s laws and policies page.) 

Most national parks in Alaska do not have wildlife distance regulations. Katmai and Denali are the exceptions. Katmai’s wildlife distance regulation reflects a very different tourist economy (most people who visit the park outside of Brooks Camp are guided) and bear population compared to other national parks. It states,

“Approaching a bear or any large mammal within 50 yards is prohibited. Continuing to occupy a position within 50 yards of a bear that is using a concentrated food source, including, but not limited to, animal carcasses, spawning salmon, and other feeding areas is prohibited. Continuing to engage in fishing within 50 yards of a bear is prohibited.

“The prohibitions above do not apply to persons:

  1. “Engaged in a legal hunt (Author’s note: This is applicable only to Katmai National Preserve; no hunting is permitted in the national park area of Katmai);
  2. “On a designated bear viewing structure;
  3. “In compliance with a written protocol approved by the Superintendent; or
  4. “Who are otherwise directed by a park employee.”

Surrounding Brooks River is an administrative area called the “Brooks Camp Developed Area” (BCDA). This includes all land and water within 1.5 miles of Brooks Falls. Here, a few special rules and regulations apply that go beyond what is required in the rest of the park.

Brooks Camp Developed Area

In the BCDA, you…

  • Must attend an NPS approved bear orientation immediately upon arrival.
  • Can only camp in the campground
  • Cannot leave any property unattended outside except for planes, boats, or in specially designated places.
  • Cannot have a pet.
  • Cannot eat or possess food except inside buildings or designated picnic areas.

In addition to the above, there are two seasonal closure areas at Brooks Camp, both at and near the falls.

  • The Falls and Riffles bear viewing platforms and boardwalks are closed from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. from June 15 through August 15. Entering or going upon these platforms and boardwalks during these hours is prohibited.
  • The area within 50 yards of the ordinary high water mark of the Brooks River from the Riffles Bear Viewing Platform to a point 100 yards above Brooks Falls is closed to entry from June 15 through August 15, unless authorized by the Superintendent.

Brooks Falls Seasonal Closure_2

Fishing is permitted in the river from June 8 – April 9. The river is catch and release only except downstream of the bridge near the river’s outlet. Downstream of the bridge, you can only keep one fish (of any species except rainbow trout) per person per day. Fish must be immediately placed in a plastic bag and taken to the “fish freezing” building to store in a freezer until you leave. There are no public fish cleaning facilities available. (More information about fishing at Brooks River)

That’s a lot to keep track of, isn’t it? There is also a broader NPS regulation that prohibits “the feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentional disturbing of wildlife nesting, breeding or other activities.” This regulation has a lot of wiggle room, especially regarding “other activities,” and rangers must carefully consider when they can enforce it.

Unless something is specifically prohibited, people at Brooks Camp are generally free to explore the landscape as they see fit. Concerns about the behavior or people at Brooks River, particularly if what you see is a clear rule violation, should go directly to the staff of Katmai. At this link you can find contact info. Park staff cannot respond to every instance of someone who appears closer than 50 yards to a bear (frankly, it happens quite frequently and may not be a violation), but they may be able to follow up on obvious and blatant rule violations such as fishing within 50 yards of a bear or entering the closed area at Brooks Falls. Please be sure to include a description as well as the day and approximate time. The email feature doesn’t allow you to attach photos, but if you took a snapshot or video, then please include the link too.

The Future of Brooks Camp

I have been thinking a lot about how to reduce my potential impact on bears when I visit Brooks River. The future of Katmai and Brooks River might look like a lot of other national parks. Climate change will influence the flora and fauna. Certainly, people will continue to visit and likely in increasing numbers. Since 1999, anywhere from 6,500 to 12,500 individual visitors have attended the NPS bear orientation per year with the highest numbers occurring in July. This is a good proxy for overall visitation as everyone* who arrives at Brooks Camp must receive an NPS approved orientation. On the most visited days in 2017 and 2018, over 400 people attended the mandatory bear safety orientation. Including employees and people who stayed overnight, this indicates that more than 500 people are present during the busiest times along the 1.5 mile Brooks River, sharing habitat with dozens of brown bears.

Brooks Camp Bear Orientations 1999-2018 *The exception is specifically approved fishing guides who are permitted to provide the mandatory orientation to their clients. Those orientations are not included in this count.

What choices should we make to help the National Park Service meet its mission of providing for visitor enjoyment while at the same time conserving the scenery, natural and historic objects, and wildlife of national parks for future generations?

I’ve often emphasized the importance of giving bears space, not only for our own safety but for the welfare of the bears. The regulations at Brooks Camp are designed to reduce the potential for bear-human conflict. Often, it is necessary to make personal decisions that go beyond the rules. For example, the speed limit on a highway may be 65 mph but conditions such as rain, snow, ice, or heavy traffic might require us to adapt to a lower speed. We can think of wildlife distance regulations in the same way. While park regulations permit people to approach a bear as close as 50 yards, that distance may not be appropriate for all bears at all times. Ethical visitation in bear country requires people to be closely attuned to bear behavior and to watch for subtle signs of stress, such as a yawn or the bear changing its intended travel path. These signs are so subtle that they are difficult to detect even at close range and may not be visible at all on the cams.

So what might best practices for bear viewing at Brooks River look like? One evening I sat down and drafted what I call the Brooks River Pledge. It’s a personal pledge between yourself and Brooks River with the goal to emphasize respect for the bears’ space as well as ways to continue to have a high quality bear viewing experience. Please note, this is not official in any way. It does not represent the park or explore.org. Yet, I encourage you to review the pledge and think about applying it toward your wildlife viewing experience at Brooks River.

I also realize that most people do not have the opportunity to visit Brooks River. It’s remote and it’s expensive, so I have also been thinking about those of us who watch the cams primarily. How might you help protect bears, salmon, and Katmai? For one, we can support sustainable fisheries and work to protect the oceans. Katmai’s bear population is highly dependent on salmon. Sustainable fisheries not only support thousands of jobs in the Bristol Bay region but also the health and ecology of Katmai. Our climate is warming and humans are the force driving the change. A warmer and more acidic ocean can also negatively impact salmon. So far the productivity of the Bering Sea and North Pacific have not suffered substantially from climate change, at least in regard to sockeye salmon populations, but we can’t expect that to last under a warming climate. Therefore, it’s important to make sure your elected officials take climate change seriously and are willing to take the steps necessary to mitigate it. We can also make sure our elected representatives knows how much we value parks and urge them to ensure their protection.

An Evolving Place

Like the brown bear who lives as an omnivore but has yet to shed its carnivore ancestry, Brooks Camp as a bear-viewing destination exists within a legacy of development and management set in place decades ago. Watching bearcam, it’s easy to think of Brooks River as a place primarily for bears, yet the river and its bears do not exist in a vacuum. They live and survive in the most visited place in Katmai National Park. The ways in which we use this place continues to change. Through the cams we can experience the abundance of Katmai and consider the challenges of protecting it.

On July 25, 2019, I co-hosted a text chat with moderators and Katmai staff about this topic and history of modern Brooks Camp, bear activity at Brooks River, the meaning of national parks, the future of Brooks Camp, and ethical wildlife viewing. Please review those comments for more information. If you’d like to continue the conversation or have questions about bear and human interactions at Brooks River, please post a comment below.

  • Ratna Narayan

    I honestly am at loss as to how to react to this. Please do not think anything I say is directed against you Mike Fitz! I think you are above awesome! Thank you for all the knowledge you share and for the voice of reason you bring to this situation. I appreciate and respect it. I love the idea of the pledge and I cant wait till I visit Brooks falls again. But I am also human and hence I worry- worry about the almost Draconian measures explore is taking ( I hope I am allowed to say that here?) with regards to the bear cam chatters, Thank you for keeping a channel of communication open with us! I worry about what the future brings to Brooks Falls. I guess we will wait and see!

    • http://explore.org explore.org mod

      Ratna, we’ll have to delete this comment.

      • Ratna Narayan

        explore.org mod thank you for letting me know

      • Ratna Narayan

        Night explore.org Mod

      • DePasoPorElPlaneta

        Why?

  • Ratna Narayan

    I honestly am at loss as to how to react to this. Please do not think anything I say is directed against you Mike Fitz! I think you are above awesome! Thank you for all the knowledge you share and for the voice of reason you bring to this situation. I appreciate and respect it. I love the idea of the pledge and I cant wait till I visit Brooks falls again. Thank you for keeping a channel of communication open with us! I worry about what the future brings to Brooks Falls. I guess we will wait and see!

  • DePasoPorElPlaneta

    If we can’t post videos or captures of what appear to be rule violations, how can we report these to KNP? In order to include images or videos, one needs a link. No post on the chat, no link to the capture. No posting of a video means no way of letting others know how to find the video or that one even exists or that the infraction even happened so that people can then send a report to KNP. It seems to me that neither explore nor KNP want to receive reports.

    • http://explore.org explore.org mod

      Please see the link Mike shared in the body of his blog post – contact information for the proper authorities: https://www.nps.gov/katm/contacts.htm The proper authorities do not read explore.org chat boards, so your concerns are not best placed there.

      • DePasoPorElPlaneta

        I have and I’ve used said link to email KNP before. You aren’t speaking to my comment.

        • http://explore.org explore.org mod

          If you need to capture video using a screen grab service to share with them, that’s fine, but there’s no reason to post it to chat.

          • DePasoPorElPlaneta

            I can’t make videos, many chatters are also not up to it tech wise. So we can’t make videos. And if we can’t post captures with possible infractions, how will we have a link to include in the report? As well, if we can’t share anything, then there will only be at best one report, which will be most likely ignored. Collective action gets things done, atomizing people is disempowering and leads to a sense of hopelessness.

          • http://explore.org explore.org mod

            I know this is frustrating. Katmai conservancy is currently working on an alternate outlet to have people submit their concerns to. In the meantime, these are the outlets available to you.

          • DePasoPorElPlaneta

            Thank you for taking the time to respond to me.

          • Candice Rusch
          • DePasoPorElPlaneta

            Thank you. I know how to do screen shots. And I have enough on my plate in life such that adding making videos to it is not going to happen. I also don’t appreciate the “google this” sarcasm.

      • Savonna9

        I would like to know why a moderator from BF cam banned me from All Explore Cams with NO Explanation. This is Not Right Or Fair. If I did something wrong it should be explained. I have been a viewer & chatter on many Explore sites for about 3 years. I have donated to many causes here. I spend about 8 hours a day viewing cams because I’m a senior citizen that is handicapped & this has become my social life. Please Respond & Provide An Expanation Of The Ban. I use Disqus to sign in & you should be able to reach me through my info there. Thank You

        • http://explore.org explore.org mod

          Moderators do not ban someone without a reason, and though they will sometimes provide an explanation, they are not required to. You can easily email us to request an explanation and inquire for details – we can see you have not done that.

          • Savonna9

            I have emailed Explore & asked through Feedback. Where else can I email my quesion to?? I do not see an email address for Moderators????? TY

          • http://explore.org explore.org mod

            We’re seeing that your email hasn’t been followed up on, so we’ll respond to it now.

          • Ginger Martin

            I, myself would like to know why I was banned. I have sent several emails and no one has responded.
            Thanks

          • http://explore.org explore.org mod

            Ginger, you were placed on commenting hiatus for being combative with Service Dog Project moderators and other commenters on that chat board.

          • Ginger Martin

            So what your saying is that someone can disrespect me with their comments, but I cannot defend myself?!? I sent an email to Explore explaining how the whole thing went down, and quite honestly, if you’ll read all the comments, it was the Moderator who started the kerfuffle, as they like to put it, by making the comment that she did…and making more of it than it really was…regarding my apology to Cloud. I apologized to Cloud…not because I was wrong to ask the question, but it became obvious that she had been asked the very same question and multiple times evidently, that I had asked, except this time, she was under a bit more stress and it hit her the wrong way.
            I feel that some of the Mods get to be close internet friends with other chatters, and it can move over into their personal life as well, particularly on that chat group since many of them attend the annual gathering. When that happens, the Mod can become biased towards their group of friends, which is understandable, but it also prevents them from making unbiased decisions as a Moderator.
            If I felt that I deserved the ban, you would not have heard a peep out of me, however, I do not feel at all that it was justifiable, however I realize that my opinion doesn’t matter here.
            In essence, any question that I, or anyone for that matter, might ask could be misconstrued, which is very possible when your dealing with Social Media and such, and with every question asked or every comment made, we need to wonder how it was taken by the powers that be and prepare to be banned because while at least 25 people upvoted my apology comment and/or thanked me for the comment, because the moderator felt that I disrespected her friend, I get banned. Now that’s a Democracy , isn’t!
            It’s really a welcomed sight to see you stand by and appreciate your volunteers…you don’t see that often these days, but lets be honest, they’re human just like the rest of us.
            With that said, how long is my hiatus?

          • http://explore.org explore.org mod

            On our back end it says that you have a 2 week commenting suspension from July 29th. It can be a two week suspension and not longer if you adhere to community guidelines and refrain from arguing with your moderators. It’s not relevant whether you feel you deserve a ban or not; we can guarantee that no one who’s ever been banned from explore.org felt they deserved it, but you did break our guidelines.

    • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

      I understand your concerns. According to the new community guidelines, you can still take snapshots that include people, but we just ask that you avoid posting snapshots with just people directly in the chat. If you need a link to a specific snapshot, you can click on the “gallery” button at the top of the page, navigate the the specific camera, and browse to the snapshot. When you click on the specific snapshot you then can grab the specific URL for that image. That URL could be included in any correspondence with park staff. Screen shots can also be taken using keyboard shortcuts (Shift-Command-4 on a Mac, for example), saved to your computer, and then uploaded to Flickr or Google Photos.

      I share many of the viewers concerns about people near bears in Brooks River. The NPS, however, is most responsive to members of the public. When the public takes their concerns directly to park staff, then the park is more likely to pay attention.

      • DePasoPorElPlaneta

        Thank you for responding.

      • krmartin@hot.rr.com

        In your opinion, is it more beneficial to send our concerns to NPS, KPS or both?

        • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

          Katmai National Park is the NPS. However, there are other entities within the NPS who have some oversight and support responsibilities for individual parks like the Alaska regional office (https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1840/contactus.htm ) and the Washington office (https://www.nps.gov/orgs/1207/contactus.htm ). Regarding concerns about specific instances of someone breaking regulation, it is certainly best to alert Katmai NP directly. It might be appropriate to address larger questions about policy to those other offices, although they might just direct you back to Katmai.

  • Alicia

    I love big fat brown bears. I don’t eat fish. I will not visit Katmai National Park. Thank you Explore for bringing Katmai to me.

  • DePasoPorElPlaneta

    I want to make a request to chatters with video skills, those who regularly post videos to Youtube and other video sharing platforms. Please share your channels so the rest of us can subscribe to them and that way we can be kept abreast not only of fun/interesting/wonderful bear moments at Brooks but also of possible infractions of rules for human visitors of Brooks river.

    • Ratna Narayan

      https://www.youtube.com/user/ratnarayan
      I report incidents when I see them and have video and photo evidence

      • DePasoPorElPlaneta

        Thank you. I see lots of your videos on the chat. I will subscribe to your channel.

        • Ratna Narayan

          thank you, In all fairness there are better channels to subscribe to. Brenda , Erie, Mckate. Birgitt post more regularly than I do

  • krmartin@hot.rr.com

    I know how we can solve this entire situation quickly and easily!
    Update the rules of the park to fall in line with how the park is used today…not 50 years ago!
    Forbid visitors to encroach on the Bears and when they do, penalize them sufficiently so that they will see the seriousness of their actions. Make it public knowledge so that others planning to visit the park understand that there are serious consequences and violators will indeed suffer those consequences. I’d really like to know if Explore, NPS, KPS, etc. even care about the impact that humans are having on the wildlife and their habitat! I’m just not seeing it! I really need to see that preserving the wildlife is important to them!

    • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

      The webcams are most valuable, I think, to help people have a meaningful opportunity to watch brown bears fishing for salmon. In other words, they are a tool for awareness, to people connect with the animals and the places they live. I can do my best to help everyone who watches understand the history and ecology of the river. Trust me, we care just like you. However, explore has no authority over the management of Brooks River, so it is certainly most effective to take any concerns or messages of gratitude directly to the National Park Service.

      • krmartin@hot.rr.com

        Mike, I have never and never will I ever question your personal commitment to the Bears! It is only because of you and your passion for the Bears, that I have become so passionate about preserving our wildlife and their habitats.

        • http://www.teatrremus.pl/ Kasia

          Have you seriously become “so passionate about preserving our wildlife and their habitats” because of Mike and his passion in… five posts? Who are you?

          • krmartin@hot.rr.com

            I’m a 62 old mother and grandmother! I’ve been around a very long time…probably longer than you! And yes, I have become very passionate about preserving our wildlife and their habitat because of Mike Fitz. His passion and his knowledge, IMO, are extraordinary. I came across the Bear Cams at a difficult time in my life and watching the Cams, the PBP’s and tuning in to the Live Chats provided me with an incredible escape as well as a wealth of knowledge…much better than drugs or alcohol IMO. I rarely joined the chat but I have always been present. It wasn’t until this season that my passion drove me to speak up about the human interaction with the Bears and the potential negative effects it can have on the Bears.
            Do you have an issue with that?!? Have I answered your questions to your satisfaction?!? And who are you?

          • krmartin@hot.rr.com

            BTW, I am extremely offended by your comment! It was unnecessary and contributed absolutely nothing positive to the topic at hand. I believe this is exactly the kind of commenting that Explore is trying to do away with.

          • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

            There are a significant number of people who watch and read the comments, but don’t comment often or at all. And that’s OK, as I’m sure you agree.

          • http://www.teatrremus.pl/ Kasia

            Sure, it just didn’t feel like the case this time…

          • SunnyGirl

            Kasia, what is it supposed to “feel” like? Maybe had my comments shown up using my Screen Name which is SunnyGirl, rather than my email address, you might have “felt” better about them?!?
            I kind of doubt that considering that you’ve also been calling out people on one of the FB groups, too. You insinuated in those comments that people were spreading hate for Mike on the internet. I read every comment and not one person posted anything that could even remotely be misconstrued as hate for Mike Fitz! Quite the opposite really.

  • krmartin@hot.rr.com

    Mike Fitz…I have mad respect for you, dude! Now more than ever! But voicing our concerns here is basically the same as voicing them on the chat. This blog is being moderated even more closely than the chat. Comments are already being removed. We can’t have an open and honest discussion and aim for a solution when we comment only to have the moderator shut it down or heaven forbid, the comment is deleted.

    • http://www.teatrremus.pl/ Kasia

      You joined the discussion today? Well, welcome.

  • http://www.teatrremus.pl/ Kasia

    I have been reading the comments concerning the situation with great care. And with great fear. And I understand the frustration of the chatters, but I also understand the frustration of explore.org. Many of the posts have unfortunately contained hate speech. Yes, even saying “Oh, look, how stupid these people are!” is hate speech. And publishing their pictures is hate taken to another level, because then it endangers their personal safety. Not that I approve of the stupid and unlawful things people do at Brooks or in any national park. I have also seen @ratnanarayan:disqus becoming a victim of hate speech on Facebook, because of her nationality, race, and ethnic background. And my fear grows, because hate speech leads to hate violence, and – ultimately – extermination of groups of people. Please Everyone, check out the Gordon Allport 5 levels of discrimination (https://asianmumsnetwork.co.uk/blog/fighting-hate-crime-what-can-we-do/). This is science. And this is why I understand explore.org and their new regulations.

    • http://explore.org explore.org mod

      Thank you, Kasia. We deeply care about the bears, and also our viewers. We want the best situation for the bears, and also a proper outlet for people to voice concerns. We are working with the Conservancy and others to produce the proper outlet, but of course we have no direct control over park policy and explore.org was never created to be a reporting or security camera tool.

      We also get very scared seeing some of the recent comments about park visitors, a large majority of which we’ve deleted before most commenters even read them. We wouldn’t be approaching the situation this way if we didn’t have serious concerns, and we will be passing on such comments to the proper authorities to protect the safety of park visitors and employees.

      • http://www.teatrremus.pl/ Kasia

        Maybe a discussion on hate speech in general would be appropriate? It may be slightly off-topic, but maybe not so much…

        • http://explore.org explore.org mod

          It’s not off topic, and it’s a good idea. We’ll discuss this option.

      • Carol Loveless

        Thank you Explore. All of the CAMS are a window into a world so many of us will never see in person. I have learned so much and enjoyed them and supported a number of the organizations like Katmai Conservatory. My head and heart are in constant battle with what I see and read but only nature in its need to survive needs to be cruel, humans do not.

        • Linda Freeman

          I agree!!

    • Ratna Narayan

      Thanks Kasia!

    • Cathy Weyant

      Luckily, I have never witnessed anyone being ignorant to each other!! Amen, because I hold my tongue (and fingers back many times)… but will NOT ever tolerate such ignorance!! A new watcher was going to stop “chatting “ because they felt didn’t know enough about the bears, who was who etc…. I begged them to stay—that this group of folks on Explore were the kindest and most helpful…. being I’ve witnessed very very nasty behavior before and lost my $&#% with those involved.. exactly as this situation is with our magnificent bears, we must all cohabitate or we all suffer… I apologize to Ratna for such ignorance being directed as her, as a human…

      • Ratna Narayan

        Thank you Cathy, no apologies necessary, hugz

  • Birgitt

    So Mike this may or may not be a good idea, but I wonder if it would help to have actual maps with approximate distances on LR. That way, if people know that the river is about X yards wide at the new gravel bar, they can make better decisions about what they should email to KNP staff as a violation. Some people may just be angry at the presence of people on LR period, but others may not send something that only appears to be a violation of the rules.

    • krmartin@hot.rr.com

      I think you pegged it perfectly Birgitt…it’s the presence of people on the Lower River. I used to cringe when I saw anglers in the area right past the Riffles and sometimes I still do, but I am more concerned with the amount of people seen in the Lower River, especially in such close proximity to the moms and babies. IMO, there is no justifiable reason to allow it and I feel strongly that it should be stopped. Visitors can view and photograph from the bridge and the viewing platforms. The anglers can go fish somewhere else. And from what I’ve witnessed, the anglers seem to be the biggest problem at the Lower River, aside from “Bikini Girl”. Is it really worth it…1 fish per day…to displace the sows with Cubs from the source of what will sustain them and their cubs through the winter?!? I guess it is when all you care about is getting that fish, but I believe the majority of the visitors to Brooks Falls and the majority of the Bear Cam viewers won’t agree.

      • Linda Freeman

        One fish per day? It’s not worth the problems to our wildlife. How selfish to be out there disturbing the wildlife for one fish.

    • Ratna Narayan

      I think this is a wonderful idea

      • Birgitt

        Thanks Ratna. I think it would help people make accurate judgements.

    • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

      I’ve thought about it and several people, including some moderators, have suggested it to me, so I know there are more than a few people who would like to see that. However, I’ve always been hesitant to create images or illustrations like that because I fear it might be used for tit for tat arguments between people who disagree about exactly where people and bears are located. Perhaps more importantly, there are other considerations regarding bear-human interactions that go beyond the distance between a person and a bear.

      The measurement tool on Google Earth is perhaps the most accessible (and best) tool for anyone who is curious about distances in the lower Brooks River. Please keep in mind that the current imagery at Brooks River on Google Earth was taken in the spring when the water level in the lower river is lower than late summer.

      • Birgitt

        Yes, I think I agree with you for the same reasons. Hence my hesitation. Some people evidently just want the rules changed completely and they don’t care if it was 50 yards or 150 yards and showing diagrams or quoting distances isn’t going to solve anything. For myself, I would find it useful.

        However, when I see 708 and coy napping peacefully, ignoring the person on the other bank, I know the distance must be greater than I think it is.

        And thank you for the suggestion on the Google Earth measuring tool. I will take a look at it for that section of the river.

        • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

          708 Amelia is highly habituated to people, so her reactions are going to be much different than bears who don’t share the same tolerance, which is what I try to keep in mind when I personally encounter a bear. Each interaction between a bear and a person is unique.

          • Birgitt

            So once the person is outside of the mandatory 50 yards, it is important to look to see whether the bear is reacting. And if it is, to expand its personal space zone by backing up. Completely agreed. The thing we cannot know entirely from the cams is whether there is another bear on the other side of the people preventing movement in that direction.

      • http://yodeirdre.blogspot.com/ Mrs Z

        Mike, I found the following video of a 1st person perspective walking across the new bridge and it has helped me understand the actual vs. webcam perceived distances. I haven’t looked at who posted the video on YouTube…but perhaps it can be helpful for other people to view?

        https://youtu.be/vkde2UHRhWM

        • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

          Yes, I think this will be helpful. It’s difficult to get a sense of the layout and scale of the bridge from the perspective of the webcams.

          • http://yodeirdre.blogspot.com/ Mrs Z

            (Can’t wait to tell my husband of your reply…I am a big fan. Wish you all the best, Mike!)

  • angrboda

    Thanks Mike Fitz! I think Explore is in a difficult position here. My two cents are pragmatic: We bear cam viewers are all concerned or angered when we see people acting out on the cams, but Explore is just asking us to be mindful of how we address our concerns. People often say things in an online forum that they would never say in person. So I agree that these rules might be necessary to stop hate speech and harassment.

    And, if I’m being honest, I’m worried that if we cause too much of a hassle with the Park Service management at Katmai, they may reconsider how much access to provide Explore in the future. Keep in mind that park service staff are typically really smart people who have chosen careers of service out in nature instead of making more money in other pursuits — they share our concerns. They also want the bears to be allowed to pursue their lives as wild and free bears, with minimal human interference. They are doing their best.

    All that being said, and taking off my pragmatic hat, I really do wish they didn’t allow people in the Brooks River with the bears. All of the historic reasons feel somehow irrelevant — I have yet to hear a decent current reason that photographers and fisherpeople are allowed to enter the Brooks River proper. I wish people would be satisfied with staying on established trails and the platforms and fishing elsewhere in the park where there are smaller concentrations of people wandering around. It’s only going to get worse as more and more people discover how amazing Brooks Camp is. But that’s not for me to decide.

    • Ratna Narayan

      I agree

  • Cathy Weyant

    Well said Mike Fitz… well said!! Obviously, those of us that watch the webcams are lovers of these magnificent creatures… without doubt—Some might “jump to conclusions “ when seeing anglers or photographers and feel in their hearts… it’s too close… We must all try to co-exist or no doubt that these creatures will pay the ultimate price… their survival and existence..I absolutely love your thinking, your way of judging an instance on wether your actions will effect that bear… I wish all humans did think that way… but we know that’s a dream… My fear, is if and when a human encounter turns “ugly”… history has proven that the creatures involved suffer , and usually with their life… Coexistence between humans and creatures has been a fine line since beginning of time, and will continue… if there never was a problem, the list of extinct creatures wouldn’t be … I hope through continued information, education—that a balance can be achieved… for the sake of all….. We can keep learning, keep studying and have the ability to adapt and adjust as humans, just as all our creatures of the world have to daily…. Thank you Mike Fitz and Explore…. always educational and informative…

    • Carol Loveless

      Excellent comment

  • Carol Loveless

    Good information – I think most people are just really concerned about the bears safety if there is a human/bear interaction. I myself do not want a bear put down just for reacting as a bear would. One question on the fishing – If you are fishing with a group of 3 – 4 other people and you have caught your one fish – do you have to leave your group and take to the fish locker or can you stay and continue fishing. Are there special containers to keep your catch in so the smell doesn’t attract hungry bears.

    • Cathy Weyant

      I’m not the expert.. but read that fish must be immediately taken away.. which in reality—these creatures survive on their ability to smell… as we always see their little noses up in air, 24/7……. but, we all know many push the boundaries… and that can be catastrophic for all involved…

    • Cathy Weyant

      We have witnessed a car sized creature “pirating “ a salmon from another “car sized creature “—- so we know it wouldn’t be pretty

    • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

      You can only keep fish downstream of the floating bridge, and then only one fish per person per day (any species but rainbow trout). All fish caught upstream of the bridge must be released immediately. Let’s presume that the scenario you posit takes place downstream of the bridge. Under those circumstances the person who catches a fish and keeps it must immediately place the fish in a plastic bag, leave the group, and place the fish in the fish freezing building. The bag helps to reduce the odor of fish when you take it to the freezer in a secured building.

      • Carol Loveless

        Thank you, this sounds like a good rule. He/She can always rejoin the group and act as bear watcher.

  • krmartin@hot.rr.com

    My posts are coming across using my email address instead of my screen name. Any idea how to change that? Thanks.

    • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

      I’m not sure. Have you checked your account’s settings?

    • DePasoPorElPlaneta

      Maybe it’s because we are on disqus when commenting on the blog post and explore when commenting on the chat. I use a different login for disqus-explore and just disqus.

      • SunnyGirl

        I accessed the blog through the post on the Bear Cams. When I tried to post, it wouldn’t let me post it without signing in through Disqus.
        When I have more time, I’ll try to figure it out.

        • DePasoPorElPlaneta

          You are “SunnyGirl” in your answer to me :)

  • Monica Murphy

    Mike, knowledge is power. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with me.

  • https://noithathoathinh.com Nội Thất Hòa Thịnh

    Thanks for what you shared, I found them all the time without results. Thank you very much, if possible, please contribute a bit by visiting my website: https://noithathoathinh.com/

  • Pingback: Bears and Humans at Brooks River • Wustoo

  • CamAddict

    Thank you for writing this & giving us a place to express our concerns. I support your Pledge when visiting any place with wildlife!! Humans should never disturb wildlife or their habitat. View from a safe distance for all. That being said. what if anything can supporters do to try to get KNP to eliminate humans from the lower Brooks river from June 15 – August 15 so that the Sows, Cubs, & Sub Adult Bears can peacefully eat for 2 months. So they can get their fill in order to survive the winter. The Boars have the advantage of no humans bothering them & the Bears that really Need to eat are being disturbed daily. Is the only thing we can do is write KNP ?? Would it be possible for a person of authority for KNP to join you in an online chat to anwer our questions & hear our concerns? I fear that someday soon the bears will not return to Brooks Falls because of all the human & noise interuptions :(

    • SunnyGirl

      That is an excellent idea…can you imagine the participation by having someone from KNP joining in a discussion to address our concerns! It would be off the charts!! Sending letters and getting scripted responses doesn’t seem to be working.

    • https://fitznaturalist.com Mike Fitz

      Writing the park is certainly an important thing to do as it is the best way to ensure that park staff read your concerns. I can pass that request on to park staff. I know the park is working on a blog post about providing more information.

    • Mikki Ostertag

      Your ideas are excellent. I too believe that brooks is turning into an over crowded amusement park. This will definitely change the behavior of the bears soon.
      The difference in most Wildlife parks is the wildlife can go deep into the woods to eat away from humans but at Brooks the bears only have a short time to eat all from the streams that the park is allowing humans to take over.
      My other suggestion is to change the distance from humans to bears. Change to 100 ft. That is what most bear areas are. That would give sows and cubs a better chance of fattening up.
      One more complaint…. I’ve written KNP and all we get back is a boilerplate reply.
      Thanks.

      • CamAddict

        I’ve written several letters to KNP too & have Never received a response !! I want to see the law be No Humans in the Lower River June 15 – August 15 or ever !!

        • Mikki Ostertag

          I wrote KNP and sent a picture of a guest very close to a bear. Almost walking beside a bear.
          This was their response….
          This individual is likely less than 50ft away from the bear in question, but sometimes, especially in unique interactive environments like Brooks Camp. We have less of a distance barrier than places like Denali, because most other places have grizzly bears, which tend to be more aggressive than coastal brown bears (but are still the same species). We try to monitor and control human behavior as much as we can. Thank you for your inquiry.
          …..I’m so disappointed they KNP is just letting this happen and YES I would love to attend a meeting with the park top heads.

      • abcayemich

        100 ft ??? That makes no sense.

        • Mikki Ostertag

          Sorry. 100 yards. Haha.
          100 ft you might as well sit in their lap.

          • Mikki Ostertag

            Because I’m on as a guest I seem to not be able to edit.

          • abcayemich

            LOL

  • Dasimi

    Mike, if a person gets closer to a bear than rules state, and the bear, being a bear, chargers them causing injury or worse, does anything happen to the bear?