2 young bears ‘paw’ at people in first physical bear-human contact at Katmai’s Brooks Camp in 20 years

Two young bears "pawed" people at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve in the past week, the first time that bears in the popular bear-viewing area have made physical contact with people in two decades, the National Park Service said in a written statement.

Nobody was harmed in what the park service describes as two "minor incidents" this past week. The first time, a "bear pawed a visitor's pant leg after approaching the visitor in a curious manner," the park service said.

The second time, a bear that was being chased by another bear "pawed an employee" at Katmailand's Brooks Lodge.

"The last known incident in which a bear contacted a visitor (at Brooks Camp) was over 20 years ago," the statement said.

Brown bears are the only type of bears that regularly inhabit Katmai, according to the park's website.

This year, many subadult bears – usually 2.5 and 5 years old – are running around the Brooks Camp area. These young bears chase each other, "which leads to surprise interactions," the park service said.

"Additionally, these young bears occasionally challenge people as they determine their place in the social hierarchy," the park service said.


The number of annual visitors to the park has increased since the mid-2000s, the last time there were so many young bears in the Brooks Camp area of the park, the statement said.

[The Katmai bear cam is back: Watch the live stream]

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that this was the first physical contact between a bear and human in Katmai National Park in 20 years; the story has been updated to reflect that it's only for the Brooks Camp area of the park.

Laurel Andrews

Laurel Andrews was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Alaska Dispatch News and Alaska Dispatch. She left the ADN in October 2018.