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The bears own the park!
– Ranger Joshua

Katmai’s Brown Bears, August 2004

Every summer millions of King, Red and Silver Salmon in Bristol Bay to the west of the Alaska Peninsula swim upstream through the many rivers and lakes on the peninsula, and return to the exact spot where they were born to spawn. After spawning, the salmon die. Why the fish are compelled to return to the exact spot of their birth remains a mystery. As they swim upstream, they navigate through the many turns by “smelling” the river.
During this annual “salmon run” the brown bears in the area move eagerly to the shallow places in the rivers to feed on the abundant fish. During this summer feast it is vital for the bears to gain the weight that will see them through the long Alaskan winter. Brooks Falls is near Katmai National Park’s Brooks Camp, and this six-foot high falls provides a prime fishing place for the bears. During the peak of the salmon run, the biggest bears perch on top of the falls waiting for a salmon to jump into their mouth. In nature, it is rare that food actually jumps into a mammal’s mouth!
By the time we arrived in August, most of the salmon run was over, and the remaining salmon no longer had the strength to jump the falls. With the major feast over the big bears had moved elsewhere, but many smaller bears remained to fish in the river’s shallows.
A bear prowling the top of Brooks Falls Prowling the top of Brooks Falls
A bear carries a catch across the top of Brooks Falls A bear carries a catch across the top of Brooks Falls

(NPS Photo)
A young bear checking out the shallows below the falls Checking out the shallows below the falls
A bear probing the pools below Brooks Falls Probing the pools below Brooks Falls
On a windy day dead salmon wash ashore from Lake Naknek, and this small bear surfs for dinner On a windy day dead salmon wash ashore from Lake Naknek, and this small bear surfs for dinner
A young bear prowling the lake shore Prowling the lake shore

You never know what might turn up
Except where noted, Gerry took the above photos on 8/9, 8/10 and 8/17, 2004
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Copyright © 2001-2018 by Gerry Roach. All Rights Reserved.
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