‘Unprecedented’: Man wades into Katmai bear feeding zone, takes a selfie

Three people are facing criminal charges after they approached feeding brown bears at Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve in the popular Brooks Falls viewing area, the park service said.

One man was shown taking a selfie on the Brooks Falls live stream, which broadcasts to a global audience throughout the summer.

National Park Service spokeswoman Anela Marie Ramos said in an email the situation was "unprecedented" for Brooks Falls during the summer area closure, June 15 to Aug. 15.

Around 6:50 p.m. Thursday, two Alaska residents and one tourist went into the closed area, the National Park Service said in a statement.

The man used an emergency exit on the bear viewing platform to get down to the riverbank below, according to Ramos.

Multiple bears were feeding on salmon at the time.

"In doing so, the group violated National Park Service wildlife viewing regulations, putting themselves and wildlife at risk," wrote Mark Sturm, superintendent at Katmai National Park.


Katmai rangers started getting reports from visitors and people watching the Katmai bear cam. Ramos was not sure if the person in the video was Alaskan or a visitor.

"The group was contacted by park rangers and charges are pending. Details on identities will be released when charges are finalized," Sturm wrote.

In Katmai, it's prohibited to be within 50 yards of a bear that is "using a concentrated food source" like the migrating salmon at Brooks Falls.

August is usually when bears move on to other streams as they follow the sockeye salmon run, Ramos wrote. But the salmon run is still going strong – more than 60 million sockeyes returned to Bristol Bay this summer.

"It has been a phenomenal year for salmon and bear viewing," she wrote.

Criminal charges against the three were still being finalized, Ramos wrote.

"People need to recognize that these are wild brown bears. These visitors are lucky that they escaped the situation without injury. The possible consequences for the bears and themselves could have been disastrous," Sturm said in the statement.

Ramos said she could not confirm that the people had been drinking, "However, they were at the bar afterwards," she wrote.

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.