Tag Archive: fishing


Today was an exciting day of bear watching! I actually had just turned on the bearcams to show my husband what I had been doing for my field observations, and when I pulled up the second camera at the Lower River, I was shocked to see a momma bear and two baby bears in the river! So a casual glimpse at the bearcams turned into a real field observation quite quickly! This was the first and only time I have been able to see a live shot of baby bears during my time watching the cameras at Katmai.

When I first saw the baby bears, they just looked like little bumps in the water behind the larger bear. Momma bear (I will refer to her as Bear M) is mostly blonde in color, with large ears and a smallish head. She doesn’t seem particularly large, perhaps because much of her fishing catches go to her offspring rather than feeding herself. The baby bears – I believe there were only two, though there may have been three – have fur that is darker in color than the momma bear, they are a dark brown color.

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Momma Bear M and two baby bears in the water at the Lower River.

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Another day of watching the brown bears fish at Brooks Falls at Katmai National Park, on the live bearcam they have set up there. As I’ve mentioned before, this bearcam is set up at the same location as a wooden platform that is physically available for visitors of the park to stand and watch the bears fish live in person. This image, taken from the Google maps photo uploads, shows exactly how close the platform is to the falls, and how close the park visitors can get to where the bears are fishing:

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The visitor’s platform at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park

This leads me to wonder how this proximity to humans might affect the food-gathering/fishing habits of the bears here at Brooks falls. As I’ve wondered in a previous post, it’s possible that bears less comfortable with the human presence might stay in the far pool to fish, or indeed, may not come to these falls to fish at all, but might prefer other, less desirable fishing spots along the river that are less likely to be visited by humans. I’ve noticed, when the sound is working on the cameras, that the visiting humans will tend to cheer when a bear catches a fish, similar to spectators watching s sports match. This could be distracting to the bears, or intimidating to them, or affect them in some other way. Bears more comfortable with the human presence might be more likely (or more able) to fish at the spots on the falls that are closer to the visitor’s platform, namely at the lip or the jacuzzi spots. These also seem to be the spots where bears are more likely to catch fish, in my observations. I have seen more bears catch fish (or bears catch more fish) at these locations than bears at the far pool or in the space between the jacuzzi and the far pool.

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After my last post, later that same evening, I was able to witness a bit more fishing activity at Brooks Falls, again at the Brooks Falls Live Cam. I only watched for a short time, and while there were two bears present, I focused on one, witnessing some interesting behavior in terms of the way it handled the fish it caught. Following my pattern, I will refer to this bear as Bear F. Bear F is of a dark blonde to light brown color throughout most of its coat, with lighter blonde on the ears and a darker brown on the legs. It seems to have a somewhat more pronounced brow than some of the other bears I have seen, a roughly average-length snout, and some possible scarring on the left front shoulder (difficult to tell given the resolution of the video).

Bear F was fishing at the lip at Brooks Falls as I watched. What was most interesting about it’s behavior was that after catching a fish and moving to the nearby flatter rock to eat the fish (a common enough behavior for those bears that fish at this spot), Bear F only seemed to eat part of the fish before going back to the lip to continue fishing, not eating all of the fish. I’m not sure if this is common, but the other bears I’ve seen have largely seemed to eat most or all of the fish they’ve caught before going to catch another. Once Bear F moved back to the lip to catch more fish, some nearby birds arrived almost immediately and began foraging on the fish carcass, eating the meat leftover from Bear F’s catch, until the fish fell over the falls. Bear F caught another fish within a matter of moments and went on to eat that one as well. Perhaps the amount of meat left on the first fish in comparison to the inedible parts of the fish wasn’t worth the time the bear would spend picking apart, in comparison to the time it took to catch another fish. Time was better spent fishing and obtaining the next meaty fish rather than scrounging for every last bit of meat left on the first one? This seems to work out well for the birds, and Bear F didn’t seem to mind the birds swooping in on the fish.

Possible IDs: TBD

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After my first attempt at field observation, I was a bit disappointed, so I hoped for a better experience today when I logged on to the Brooks Falls Live webcam to see if I was able to observe any brown bear activity. Katmai National Park is 3 hours behind my home in New Orleans (GMT -5:00), which puts it at GMT -8:00, so I planned my watching times accordingly. To my delight, I saw several different bears fishing at Brooks Falls today, observed many successful catches, and, frankly, became completely mesmerized by the bearcams. If you haven’t already checked them out, I highly recommend it. Almost any time I logged on throughout the day, I was able to see some bears. I’m going to focus my notes on three bears that I specifically saw fishing today, between approximately 10:45am and 11:35am local time at the Park. Unless (and until) I can identify their sex, I’ll refer to them as Bear C, Bear D, and Bear E.

Bear C at the Jacuzzi

Bear C arrived from the near bank of the Falls, and walked up along the bank and then into the river close to the falls, taking up a position in the jacuzzi. (Bear E can be seen in the background of the first photo, at the Far Pool, while Bear C is entering the river from the left side of the screen.) This bear seems relatively dark for this time of year, since most bears are lighter in the spring through July and become darker in the fall (though admittedly this could be because it was already wet), with a somewhat short snout, dish-shaped head and wide-set ears. The bear sat somewhat low in the water, it seemed, and ducked its head several times into the water in tandem with grabbing motions with its paws to attempt to catch fish. It caught at least two fish while I was watching it, staying at the jacuzzi for approximately 12 minutes before walking downstream in the water, with the second fish still in its mouth. If Bear C is female, this  second fish could be being taken to one or more cubs waiting downstream.

Possible IDs: #402, #218, #856

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Bear C entering the river at Brooks Falls from the near bank.

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Bear C in “the jacuzzi” as salmon can be seen leaping up the falls.

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I was excited to start my first day of real “field observation” with the webcams set up along the Brooks River at Katmai National Park, to kick off my brown bear watching project. I had checked out all of the available webcams casually, to make sure they would work, primarily to ensure good enough resolution for me to be able to rely on them for field observation. But I had overlooked the time difference between my home in New Orleans and the “bearcams” in Alaska. So the first time I had set aside for field observations, it was too early in the morning Alaska time for me to see the bears very well. Still, I was able to get a few minutes of bear-watching in before I had to go about the rest of my day.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 11.12.25 AMThe live feed at Brooks Falls was the only camera with any bear activity at the time I checked in this morning. I saw two bears at the falls, at spots the park refers to as “the far pool” and “the jacuzzi”. Both were there for only a few moments. The one at the far pool (background of this image) was there when I turned on the feed, though it took me time to realize the shape was that of a bear and not a rock, as it wasn’t moving very much. Clearly from this video I was unable to tell if the bears were male or female, or any other distinguishing features, so I will call them Bear A (far pool) and Bear B (jacuzzi). Bear A was standing on top of some of the rocks, not in the water, and turned around a few times toward the falls and then looking downstream, and then turned back again. Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 11.11.53 AM

I then saw the second bear (Bear B) come in from the bottom right side of the screen. Bear B settled at the spot known as the jacuzzi (foreground area, near the base of where the falls hit). The bear kept looking around, including behind/downstream of their location, the entire time, rather than keeping their eyes on the falls. I don’t believe it successfully caught any fish during the time I was watching, and it only stayed in that spot for maybe 5-6 minutes before turning and walking back off-screen, slightly downstream and toward the bank of the river again.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 11.04.06 AMBear A stayed was at the far pool the entire time, but because of the darkness it was difficult to keep track of it as it moved around in that area, so I was not able to tell if it was able to catch any fish or not.

So far it’s been difficult to capture any real information other than a) this is not the best time of day for me to try to watch the bears via video; and b) the bears seem willing to share some of the space at the falls with other bears, though I don’t have enough information about the bears to know whether they share with members of the same or opposite sex, age differences, or how common this is overall. I also know that the physical observation area for visiting tourists is near or at the same location as the camera, so it is possible that the bear fishing at the far pool is more wary of human interaction than the bear fishing at the jacuzzi.

I found some additional information on the favored fishing spots at Brooks Falls in the Katmai National Park eBook Bears of Brooks River 2015.  They include a helpful diagram including the names of the spots I’ve mentioned, such as the jacuzzi, the far pool, and “the lip”, a spot on the top side of the falls, as favorite spots where the bears will sit to fish.

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