Autumn and the Brown Bears of Katmai National Park

Hello, Autumn!  The days are getting noticeably shorter and I swear the leaves on the trees next to the Santa Fe River turned yellow overnight.

Photo Credit: Max Goldberg via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Max Goldberg via Compfight cc

The last few weeks I have been watching grizzlies grab sockeye and silver salmon out of the river at Brooks Falls in Alaska.  They are preparing for the coming winter, packing on the pounds. The park’s website says the best month for bear watching via the live feed is July, but I’ve seen lots of action in September.  Most evenings (I usually tune in while I’m fixing dinner) I see three to four bears at the base of the falls employing their different fishing techniques:  dashing and grabbing; sitting and waiting; snorkeling; pirating (stealing another bear’s catch).

It didn’t take me long to identify a favorite—bear 480, also known as Otis.  I swear Otis is the size of a mini-Cooper.  He patiently stares into the rushing water, employing the sit and wait strategy.  I learned more about Otis listening to one of the play-by-play segments by Ranger Dave.  Most of the other bears look the same to me (Ranger Dave talks about identifying them by their size and behavior and once in a while you see a mother with her cubs), but Otis is unmistakable.  His fur is blonder than the others and he has a floppy right ear.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem that Otis is very successful, but his size and an anecdote related by Ranger Dave tell a different story.  He and another ranger once watched Otis, over the course of seven hours, snag and snarf 44 salmon.    One salmon, according to the ranger, equals nine cheeseburgers.  I’ll let you do the math.

I just checked; Otis is out there tonight on the far side of the Brooks River, fishing.  But I know that one day soon he will lumber off and find a spot to hunker down for a big sleep.  I’ll miss him.

Note:  I tried, but was never able to get a decent screen shot of Otis to include with this post.





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