Science

The Katmai bear webcams are back for summer — with higher resolution and better sound

Some of Alaska’s most famous bears are back on camera.

The Katmai National Park and Preserve webcams are rolling this season in higher definition and with more angles than in previous summers.

And the brown bears that feed on salmon have started lumbering into view.

The Brooks Falls camera on Tuesday showed a closeup of a bear panning its head back and forth at the foot of the falls as foamy white river water flowed past, with more than 1,000 viewers watching online.

The remote park on the eastern end of the Alaska Peninsula draws visitors to its campground and viewing platforms to watch the bears as they feed on salmon and prepare for the long winter. Bears can gain more than 2 pounds of fat each day in summer and fall.

For those who won’t make it out to Katmai’s bear-watching platforms in person, the bear cams — viewable at explore.org/bears — come in handy.

The Katmai bears have become even more well-known thanks to the annual Fat Bear Week competition. Last year’s competition — a bracket-style online tournament in which fans vote for their favorite hulking contenders — was said to be fattest of all Fat Bear Weeks. The bears gorged all summer, and Bear 747 reigned supreme.

Upgrades to the cameras were supposed to happen last year, but the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily upended those plans, said Candice Rusch, director of new media at Explore.org, which works with the park to livestream the bears.

There’s a new camera installed at Brooks Falls, and the picture quality should be “significantly improved,” Rusch said.

They also replaced and upgraded an underwater salmon camera; got the Dumpling Mountain camera back up and running; and upgraded the camera microphones, so the audio quality should be better.

“Basically, everything out there is higher picture quality for one reason or another,” Rusch said.

Plus, the park is also getting back to normal operations after a somewhat shuttered pandemic summer last year.

And it’s going to be busy, said Amber Kraft, interpretation and education program manager at Katmai.

“Our campground reservations are completely full, July all the way to the end of the season, and the same with the lodge reservations,” Kraft said. “So we do expect it to be a very busy, very popular summer here.”

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