About a month ago, I wrote here about the educational and entertainment value of live, online wildlife cams and included links to some of the better ones. After all the wonderful sights we’ve seen during the past three weeks, I felt compelled to address the subject once more by mentioning the tremendous opportunity offered by one particular set of cams. If you love the Adirondacks, you have at least a general interest in wildlife, so you’re bound to enjoy this.
Cam technology isn’t perfected yet (glitches include freezes, pixelation, and failures), but when things are working well, it’s often much like watching a live TV show. And as I noted, animals are often sitting around doing pretty much nothing. That doesn’t prevent some folks from monitoring cams hour after hour, but for most of us, the best option is to have browsers open and check them occasionally (or perhaps sign up for alerts on sites that offer them).
Most days I have about 10 browser tabs dedicated to wildlife cams. (For this I’ve had much better luck with Internet Explorer. Google Chrome experienced frequent problems in relation to Flash.) When time allows, a quick check shows what’s happening. If it’s good, I’ll snap a few pics like the ones you see here. If it’s great, I’ll stop to observe. And if you followed up on my earlier suggestion to check out the brown bears in Alaska during July, you’ve enjoyed quite a show.
The accompanying photographs from Katmai National Park offer glimpses of recent events, and for nature lovers, it doesn’t get much better than this. One shows a young brown bear resting in a tree. The general belief seems to be that they don’t climb trees, but scratch that: it simply isn’t true. The Rangers at Katmai confirmed that except for the larger and heavier ones, browns are capable and fast climbers.
Personally, I’ve always loved photos of bears standing tall on two legs, but I imagined it a fairly rare occurrence. Not so. They do it frequently to get a good look at their surroundings, and while in the water, they often take several strides while standing fully erect, walking like a human.
The playfulness among younger animals has also been very entertaining, and if you have children, you quickly notice the similarities. Like the kid minding his own business, but another keeps picking until a chase begins. And with bears, just like with children, roughhousing often results and tempers flare. That appeared to be what occurred leading up to the photo of two bears standing on the beach in an aggressive posture. But after a minute or so, they walked off like long-lost buddies. (Wouldn’t it be great if kids could mimic that behavior?)
Watching a mom with one, two, or three small cubs to care for can be eye-opening. The work involved in monitoring and feeding them is endless. Mothers sometimes are forced to protect their offspring from much larger bears (not always successfully).
The interaction of big bears, mostly males, as they hunt salmon at Brooks Falls has been an education in itself. After observing for a while, one can detect different methods of catching fish. Some try systems used by other bears who are more successful. And instead of acting like children, the fishing bears are more like countries guarding their borders, issuing threats and stares and sometimes taking action.
July (when the salmon run upstream) and September (when the salmon die) are peak times to watch the bears on the Brooks River, so there still should be plenty to see this year. (In August, many bears move to smaller streams where it’s easier to catch spawning salmon.) Katmai usually has three cams that are active: one underwater to view the salmon, one at the falls, and one at the mouth of the river. Near the mouth, you’ll frequently see people fishing in close proximity to bears (they generally ignore people).
We’ve watched bears visibly increased in size from feasting on salmon (they eventually will gain many hundreds of pounds), and I managed several photos of a pair mating on the riverbank for about 15 minutes. Again, these aren’t the same bears we have here in the Adirondacks, but they do offer one of the world’s best opportunities for animal observation in a wild setting.
If you want check it out, start by clicking on the Brooks Falls link. That takes you to the host site of many excellent wildlife and animal cams (explore.org) with a number of options to explore. If you have older parents or relatives who aren’t able to get around much, cam sites provide a great diversion. Animal behavior can be fascinating and entertaining, so the site has something for just about everyone. Viewing some of their offerings will likely enhance your own hikes and wilderness experiences.