It’s been two months since my book, The Bears of Brooks Falls, was released for your reading pleasure. Whether you’re fortunate enough to visit Brooks River in person or if you are a fan of the Brooks River bearcams on explore.org, I hope the book will become a valuable companion to your bear-watching experience. I’ve been pleased to find many people have enjoyed it and found its storylines to be enlightening.
I also hope it’s provoked your curiosity about bears, salmon, Katmai National Park, the history of national parks, and the evolving role that people play in parks and other wild landscapes. With bearcam season right around the corner (expect the cams to go live in mid to late June), I’m also coordinating with bookstores to host online talks about the book.
There’s been no designated place for readers to ask questions about the book though, so let this post serve that purpose. If you have a question or a comment about something you read in The Bears of Brooks Falls, then please drop it in the comments. I’ll do my best to reply. And, of course, I’ll be online almost everyday during bearcam season to answer your questions about bears and salmon as the resident naturalist with explore.org.
12 thoughts on “Questions About The Bears of Brooks Falls?”
Here are a pertinent question and a comment from a reader. The question and comment came via Twitter and links take you to threads where I answered.
1. Why didn’t many bears fish at Brooks Falls until the last few decades? https://twitter.com/FitzIke/status/1385756731356205056
2. I want to go to Katmai and see bears but I also want to make sure that I don’t affect the bears. https://twitter.com/FitzIke/status/1389780294211981312
I am waiting for my book to arrive. Very excited. Hope you sell a million of them.
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Hi Mike… I’m just finishing reading your excellent book – one more chapter!
Do you think the NPS will ever be able to limit the number of day visitors? It seems that since the lodge and campground are already limited with the number of visitors that cutting back on the number of day visitors is the way to go.
I visited in 2019 with a photo group and camped in the camp ground. I loved being there and hope to go back on my own again. However, I’ve very concerned with the number of people visiting and the effect it has on the bears.
I find it interesting that we accept defacto overnight limits in national parks (there are only so many spaces in hotels, lodges, and campgrounds), yet day use limits are almost too taboo for park managers to mention. As I write in the book’s epilogue, I don’t want day use limits but I think they are necessary for the good of Brooks Camp, its bears, and the experience of people. When you visited in 2019, there were more people at Brooks Camp than ever before. In the 1990s, it would’ve been unfathomable for park managers to consider allowing 14,500 people at the river but here we are.
The congressional delegation in Alaska has consistently opposed day use limits at Brooks Camp, because the previous concessioner opposed it and the congressional delegation listened to them, not the NPS. I don’t see that changing unless the current concessioner, Bristol Bay Native Corporation (BBNC), advocates strongly for it. BBNC not only operates Brooks Lodge but also Katmai Air, which is the most popular air taxi service to Brooks. A cap on day trips would, therefore, cut into BBNC’s bottom line as well as other air taxis and bear-viewing guides. So, there’s a chance although the chance is probably minimal right now.
I think parks will be more crowded than ever as we emerge from the pandemic. If we don’t reach pre-pandemic visitation numbers in 2021, then it’ll definitely happen in 2022 barring some other disaster. Even with the potential difficulties and expected political opposition, it’s past time for Katmai’s managers to renew the effort to establish a human carrying capacity at Brooks River.
Thank you for your answer… I went in September of 2019, so it wasn’t as crowded as July/August but there were still plenty of people on the platform. I am conflicted about going again as I feel there are too many people visiting – sometimes I feel like we are strangling our National Parks with people. I finished your book – I really enjoyed it. Thanks!!!
Mike – I have been enjoying your book, savoring it as I read. One day I hope to make it to Brooks Falls but for now I am watching the bears through explore,org.
I hope you make it to Brooks Falls too. In the meantime, the bearcams are the absolute best way to experience the place without traveling there. In some ways, the bearcams provide an opportunity for a richer experience than an onsite visit. Through the cams, we get to watch bears across entire seasons and years. We get to see cubs grow into adult bears. Prior to the bearcams, that experience was limited to the few fortunate people who worked at Brooks Camp for years and years.
Thank you for your reply. I do enjoy watching the bears each season from spring to fall. It is amazing to me to see their transformation over the summer. Until I can make another trip to Alaska I plan on using the bearcams to watch the bears.
Hi Mike! Just finished listening to the audiobook. Mr. Pruden did a very nice job reading it and you did an excellent job writing it. I also bought the ebook so I could see the photos–and to support your efforts, as well. I notice you didn’t mention a couple of deterrents that’ll keep me from Katmai–bugs (I am mosquito bait extreme) and the smell :-). I’m happy to watch the Explore cams and contribute financial support though. Thanks for all you do to enhance our bear viewing experience.
So glad you enjoyed it, and thank for the support. I didn’t mention mosquitoes, because in all honesty I don’t think they are that bothersome at Brooks River. Of course, that’s an opinion of personal tolerance and the amount of biting insects also depends on the time of year and location. Black flies, for example, can be super abundant in King Salmon in early summer. In August, the no-see-ums can be quite bothersome at Brooks Camp. In September though, Brooks River can be nearly free of biting insects, especially if there’s been a couple of frosty nights. It’s best to be prepared with physical barriers like a head net and long sleeves regardless.
As for the smell, for me the river area doesn’t really get stinky until October when the amount of dead salmon peaks. There are unpleasant smells before then, just not ubiquitous across the riverscape.
Good afternoon from York UK !!
May i ask how many on avge Salmon pass each year ? Are numbers more or less similar or otherwise ? , I leave the Live Youtube on through the night and whenever i stir it’s great to see them stocking up for winter
Hi Paul. Glad you’ve been enjoying the bear cams from the U.K. The number of salmon that move into Naknek River each year is variable. Fisheries biologists for State of Alaska manage the Bristol Bay salmon run for short and long-term sustainability. As part of that effort, they establish an escapement range for each large river in the Bristol Bay watershed. Escapement is the number of salmon that are not caught by the commercial fishery and swim into freshwater. Enough salmon need to “escape” so that enough spawn to sustain the run. For the Kvichak River, a large watershed north of Katmai, it’s two to ten million sockeye. For the Naknek River, the watershed that includes Brooks River, it’s 800,000 to 2 million. Brooks River is part of the Naknek River watershed. This year the official escapement in Naknek River was about 1.9 million as of July 21. More salmon have continued to arrive at Brooks River after the official counts ended so the actual escapement is probably a little higher.
Part of the methodology, as I understand it, includes considering how many fish will escape but not spawn due to predation from bears. The escapement range reflects the number of salmon that can sustain wildlife populations and the commercial fishery.
Salmon are fairly reproductively successful when their spawning habitat is healthy and their migration corridors are not blocked by dams or other obstructions. Healthy salmon runs like Bristol Bay’s can sustain a high level of harvest (it’s not surprising for the commercial fishery to catch more than two-thirds of the returning salmon each year) as long as enough salmon escape upstream.
I’m trying to learn more about Atlantic salmon, a species that was formerly abundant in Maine, U.S.A., where I now live, as well as in the U.K. Atlantic salmon are considered endangered in the U.S. In the best years recently only a few thousand salmon return to Maine, unfortunately. If we can restore more migration corridors in Maine for Atlantic salmon and other sea-run species then we can only enrich our landscapes.