“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”


Now that the baby birds have flown from the bird-cam nests I followed this spring, I have looked around to find a replacement for my nature /prayer /coffee time each morning.  I have recently been watching the brown bears, seagulls, and salmon at the Brooks Falls, Alaska Cams.  These waterfalls are a temporary barrier to migrating salmon and create the ultimate bear resort fishing spot. 

I especially enjoy watching the bears’ different fishing styles.  Some sit up to their necks in the water below the falls, just chillin’ until fish swim up to them.  “Snorkeler” bears swim underwater searching for prey.  Bandit bears grab fish caught by their neighbors and run away to eat them.  On Monday I even watched a bear leaping out into the water bellyflop style attempting to catch fish – not surprisingly, they were quite unsuccessful.   My favorite bears to watch are the ones who stand and wait at the top of the falls.  The salmon twist and leap up the falls and right into their mouths!

There is a bear-cam community that follows the bears in the chat feature.  They post screenshots and speak about the bears by number and name.  On July 26th Otis, one of the oldest (first identified in 2001), well-known, and revered bears returned to fish at Brooks River.  Otis looked very patchy and creaky, but he yawned and shuffled around the river’s edge for a bear’s day at the office!  The comments and screenshots flying in testified to how excited the community was to see this old friend.

The bear cams at Katmai National Park and Preserve see the most activity from July through September.  Park rangers host events where they answer questions and provide live commentary for bear-cam replays.  Both citizens and scientists enjoy the opportunity to explore and learn about this dynamic arctic ecosystem.

Check out the bear-cam here and /or donate –

I could not resist including this pictorial bear poem by Susan Mitchell.  As I watch the bears hunting and eating in preparation for their hibernation, I know it is only a few months before the wind and snow are howling through the air in Alaska.  Brrrr!

The Bear

Tonight the bear

comes to the orchard and, balancing

on her hind legs, dances under the apple trees,

hanging onto their boughs,

dragging their branches down to earth.

Look again. It is not the bear

but some afterimage of her

like the car I once saw in the driveway

after the last guest had gone.

Snow pulls the apple boughs to the ground.

Whatever moves in the orchard—

heavy, lumbering—is clear as wind.

The bear is long gone.

Drunk on apples,

she banged over the trash cans that fall night,

then skidded downstream. By now

she must be logged in for the winter.

Unless she is choosy.

I imagine her as very choosy,

sniffing at the huge logs, pawing them, trying

each one on for size,

but always coming out again.

Until tonight.

Tonight sap freezes under her skin.

Her breath leaves white apples in the air.

As she walks she dozes,

listening to the sound of axes chopping wood.

Somewhere she can never catch up to

trees are falling. Chips pile up like snow

When she does find it finally,

the log draws her in as easily as a forest,

and for a while she continues to see,

just ahead of her, the moon

trapped like a salmon in the ice.

-Susan Mitchell


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