Tag Archives: bear

Pawing in Katmai


Viewing platform, Katmai National Park & Preserve

A curious brown bear approached a visitor in Katmai National Park, and pawed at the visitor’s pant leg recently. That bear then wandered off. In a second incident, a brown bear was being chased by another brown bear through Brooks Camp, and a worker at Brooks Lodge was “pawed”. Neither bear, nor person was injured in the pawings.

Katmai draws a large concentration of brown bears once the salmon start to run, which also brings the visitors to view the fishing bears. Some interaction would be expected, but what is really unusual about these events, is that the last time a bear made physical contact with a human in Katmai was 20 years ago. That really is a phenomenal safety record, especially with the unpredictability of both species.

Park Rangers believe the main cause of the interactions, is due to the high number of subadult bears at Brooks River this year. A subadult is a bear between 2.5 and 5 years old. They naturally like to chase each other, and are trying to feel out their place in the hierarchy. The last time Katmai had a similar number of subadult brown bears, was roughly 20 years ago.

Photo credit: Katmai NP&P


Attack of the Cobra


1965 289 Shelby Cobra

The host of some show called Barn Find Hunter has been touring Alaska in his 1965 Shelby Cobra. His tour, which includes three more Cobras and their passengers, had stopped in Girdwood overnight. Girdwood is a small community south of Anchorage, just off of the Seward Highway.

On Wednesday morning, it was obvious that the Cobra had been broken into during the night. There were prints all over the car, some dents in the rear fender, and the convertible top had been ripped open.

Alaska State Troopers, called to the crime scene, confirmed what was apparent from the tracks in the mud.

“Grizzly”.

The stolen item? A small package of Fig Newtons, that had been left behind the seat.

That’s why us residents always say: Don’t bring food into your tents. Or your classic convertibles…

On the plus side, Barn Find Hunter has a good future episode.

Photo credit: Hagerty


Eight stars of gold on a field of blue


The Alaska state flag

In 1927, when Alaska was still a U.S. Territory, Territorial Governor George Parks persuaded the Alaska American Legion to hold a competition. The Governor thought it would help the statehood movement by having a state flag, so the Legion held a contest, open to all Alaskan children, to design Alaska’s new flag.

142 designs were sent to Juneau from all over the state. A thirteen year old living in Seward, John Ben “Benny” Benson won the contest with a simple, yet elegant design.


Benny Benson holding his design for the new Alaska flag

Benny Benson was born in the fishing village of Chignik. His father was a Swedish fisherman, his mother an Aleut-Russian. Benny’s mother died when he was just three, and the family home burned to the ground shortly afterwards. His father, John Ben Benson Sr, could not take care of his three children alone, so they were divided up. Benny and his brother were put into an orphanage in Unalaska; his sister Elsie was sent to a school in Oregon.

The Jesse Lee Home in Unalaska was home to hundreds of Aleut orphans. It eventually moved from Unalaska in the Aleutian Chain, to the town of Seward on the mainland. It was from here that Benny Benson sent his design for the Alaska flag, as a seventh grader.


The Jesse Lee Home for Children in Unalaska, circa 1901

Benson described his design to the judges this way: “The blue field is for the Alaska sky and the forget-me-not, an Alaska flower. The North Star is for the future of the state of Alaska, the most northerly in the Union. The dipper is for the Great Bear – symbolizing strength.”

The Territorial Legislature approved the new flag in May of 1927, and Alaska officially flew its new flag for the first time on 9 July 1927. Benny Benson received a watch, with the flag design etched on it, as well as a $1000 educational scholarship, which he eventually used to become a diesel mechanic.

Benson Boulevard in Anchorage, which is a major east-west thoroughfare, is named after Benny.
A Benny Benson Memorial is located at milepost 1.4 of the Seward Highway in Seward.
The airport in Kodiak was renamed the Kodiak Benny Benson State Airport in 2013.
A school in Anchorage on Campbell Airstrip Road has been named the Benny Benson School.

Benny Benson died of a heart attack in 1972. He was 58.

The black & white photos courtesy of The Alaska State Library Archives


The Bears of Katmai

Now that the salmon are starting to return to Brooks River, the bears are coming into Brooks Falls to fatten up. The Katmai Bear Cam is getting to be a little more interesting of late too.

There are approximately 2200 brown bears within the boundaries of Katmai National Park & Preserve at any given time. The Alaska Peninsula has more bears as residents than people. Most of the bears that come to Brooks Falls are numbered, as a way to keep track of them. Many of the regular bears receive names from the rangers and biologists that study them.


#410

The oldest known bear in the park, is Bear #410, she carries the nickname “Four-Ton”. A 29 year old female. Four-Ton is one of the largest females in the park. When the salmon are running, 410 is fishing, and she doesn’t care who is around. She often fishes in the midst of large males, and she doesn’t seem to be bothered by people either.


Otis

For fans of the Bear Cam, Bear #480 is a favorite. Fondly known as “Otis”, 480 is the oldest known male bear in the park at 22 years old. Otis just recently returned to the falls, and was seen catching a nice salmon and taking it back to his island to eat in peace. He is known for having the most efficient salmon catching technique of the Brooks Falls regulars.


New cubs

The first spring cubs of the year have shown up for fishing lessons.


#503

There’s a new bear in town, and he has been saddled with the number 503. Look at those claws.


#634

Bear #634 has also returned to Brooks River. Known as “Popeye”, 634 is an aggressive bear, and is known to steal fish from smaller bears.

It should be noted, that 2018 is the 100th Anniversary of Katmai National Park. Happy birthday!

Photos credit: Katmai National P&P


Bear Walking

It is wise to never limit any one of your senses when hiking in Alaska.

This comic reminds me of a time I went for a walk with my dog after a miserable day at work. I was not far from town, but my mind was focused on the terrible day I had, and not on the trail.

My dog and I came around a corner, and spooked a large bull moose. It should never have happened, there was plenty of opportunity for me to spot the moose long before I did, but I wasn’t paying attention. The moose lowered his massive rack, and charged directly at me. I was within mere feet of that mighty bull, when my yellow lab charged the moose, barking up a storm. The bull turned his charge, and my dog sauntered over to a bush to lay down his scent. His job was done, disaster adverted, it was time for more important things.

The entire event lasted only seconds. The bull stood by the forest edge, giving me the stink-eye. My heart was pounding through my jacket, and my Labrador wanted to know why we were flushing moose and not grouse.

It was a lesson I never forgot. If you can’t keep your mind on the trail, stay home and burn your dinner instead.

Comic credit: Nuggets by Jamie Smith


Return of the Bear Cam


Brooks Falls Griz, Photo credit: Katmai National P&P

The Katmai Bear Cam, which overlooks Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park & Preserve, is back up and running.
Thanks to the folks at the NPS and explore.org for the cam. Just prior to posting, I took a quick view, and there were no bears to be seen yet. Hopefully, there will actually be salmon down there for the bears.

Link to the cam below:

https://explore.org/livecams/brown-bears/brown-bear-salmon-cam-brooks-falls


The addiction that is Alaska

For Pete:


Caribou gauntlet on the Alaska Highway

I will be starting my 24th year in Alaska on the first day of May. I drove up in a copper-colored ’74 Ford Bronco, with my yellow lab in the back of the truck, along with my camping gear, a box of books and my typewriter. I didn’t really have a plan, just a desire to check out the Last Frontier. Much to my father’s dismay, I fell in love with the state immediately. It isn’t a stretch to say, that I realized that I had found my way home, on that original first day of May.

There are Two Truths about Alaska that I learned very quickly upon my arrival, and they are diametrically opposed. That does not make either one, any less true.
Truth One is the definition of a sourdough: Someone who has soured on Alaska, but doesn’t have enough dough to get out. Truth Two, is that Alaska ruins you from being able to live anywhere else. I fall into the latter category. I’m not just an Alaskan, but an Interior Alaskan to boot. I had a buddy from Anchorage who came up to visit one summer, and stayed at my cabin near Fairbanks for a whole week. He lamented to mutual friends after the visit, that “Mike has ‘gone Fairbanks’ on us. He has gone over to the ‘Dark Side’.” I took it as a compliment, even though he did not mean it as one. It was true, I had gone all in on my life at the end of the road.

Alaska isn’t for everyone; it does take a certain personality to thrive here. I’ve known people who could not leave the state fast enough after their first winter. But I’ve also met many retired military members who served in Alaska, eventually transferring out, but returning to build a life here after their service was done. There is something about Alaska that burrows into your bones, and soaks into your soul. For those of us who choose to live here, Alaska becomes a part of us, and we take a little bit of the state with us everywhere we go.


The Alaska Range as seen from the University of Alaska campus in autumn

“When you first arrive in Alaska, you notice that even the towns on the road system maintain a rugged uniqueness. Alaska is still a destination that beckons the adventurer, the individualist, and the free spirit… Home to 15 species of whales, and healthy populations of caribou, grizzlies, and moose, plus one of the last remaining strongholds of wild salmon, Alaska is still a place to behold.”
— Dave Atcheson, “Hidden Alaska: Bristol Bay and Beyond”

There is an ability here to immerse yourself in the natural world which is unique. Not because it can not be done elsewhere, but because there is still wilderness in Alaska. True wilderness. I do not know how long we will be able to hold onto that wilderness, but for now, we still have it, and it lies outside our back door.

On one or two occasions, I have been called a “free spirit”. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I do follow my own trail some of the time. Heading into Year 24, I’m as thrilled to be here today, as I ever have. We all have our roller coaster rides, and I’ve lived through my fair share. I’m excited to be returning to The Ridge full time, and that should happen this summer. There are several trips planned over the next several months that will allow me to explore additional areas of this amazing corner of our planet, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am about that.

I state all of this with caution. I tend not to plan out too far, because that is when the universe decides to throw you a wicked curve ball. I send out hope to the fates, that they will allow me to think out as far as September, if only for a change of pace.
I’ve been up in Alaska for a while now, and I know that each day is a blessing. After some revisions, I hope to immerse myself in this natural wonder for a while longer yet. At some point, I realize that I may have to move on from here. All one can do is make the most out of life wherever you are. That holds true for everyone/everywhere.

I will be heading Outside shortly. It is time to travel, and I’m excited to be heading Out. Some new places to explore, and some old friends and family to visit. As much as I am looking forward to it, I know I will be just as excited to return to Alaska when the time comes. As much as I do love to travel, I am always anxious to get back home in the end. I’ve seen Alaska recently described as a drug, and I think that is as accurate a description as any.

Alaska is a drug, and I’m addicted to her, just like many other very special people.