The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 15, 2013

Famed Katmai brown bears ready for season 2

KATMAI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE, Alaska (AP) — Stars snarling at each other, mate swapping, dominant males posturing and establishing their territory.

It's not quite "Jersey Shore," but these are among the highlights of the second season of an Internet reality show coming your way this week.

The stars are the brown bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve in remote Alaska. Eight web cams, an increase of five from last year, have been set up at various parts of the park to livestream the daily life and drama of the park's famed bears. Social aspects also have been enhanced, with live web chats planned with rangers and scientists, and a new photo sharing feature.

"We know that Katmai is a cost-prohibitive place to visit so not a lot of people get the opportunity to come here," park ranger Michael Fitz said.

"We still want people to have an understanding of what Katmai is like, and enjoy, especially enjoy the brown bears that are here, so explore.org is able to partner with Katmai to provide many different webcams along the Brooks River so you have a chance to watch the bears and have an opportunity to experience their lives," Fitz said.

About 10,000 people a year visit the park about 250 miles west of Anchorage, which is only accessibly by float plane. Katmai is on the Alaska Peninsula, across the Shelikof Strait from Kodiak Island.

Among the new camera views this year will be another angle from Brooks Falls, where bears — as many as four abroad one day last week— stand in the water and try to catch salmon traveling upriver to spawn. The new camera is at eye-level of the bears, a perspective that neither rangers nor visitors see. Cameras also are situated at the riffles, a few hundred yards downstream from the falls, and at the lower river, where cameras will catch the bears fishing near the pedestrian bridge, oftentimes sharing the river with anglers.

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