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Very short diary.  I just found out about this live cam of brown bears in the river just below Brooks Falls hunting salmon.  It's excellent quality. I'm going to watch it and will come back to update about the site, Explore, but wanted to let any fellow bear lovers know about this.  Explore also has quite a few other cams on their site.  

This is so cool! The sea gulls are standing near the bears, probably looking for any bits that the bears might drop.

Explore: Brown bears fishing for salmon at Brooks Falls

Update: there have been more bears at around starting around 8 PM EST.  I'm not a bear expert, but I believe the larger, lighter brown bears with the hump on their front shoulders are grizzly bears and the smaller, darker bears are brown bears.  There have been groups of 5 or 6 on the far side, the right side of the falls and the grizzly has been getting in confrontations with them.  Another grizzly was standing on top of the falls right at the edge on the left hand side closer to the camera.  That one has caught several fish jumping up the falls.  Earlier the camera person panned downstream and I saw several fishermen fishing in the river not that far from the bears.

There are 18 or 19 hours of daylight in this area of Alaska now so it should be light for the bear cam for quite a while.  At Explore they say the best viewing hours for the bears are 6:30am - 11:30pm Alaska Standard Time.

I have found that most insects and critters have a positive, life-giving purpose. In their wild beauty they are a gift to me. While I don't want them in my house, I respect the gift they are to the earth.  

Bears, wolves and salmon enrich the forests and are enriched in turn by the forest and river habitats.  I noticed the bears in the cam were just eating the head and top part of the salmon.  I found this explanation at Alaska Bears and Wolves:

It is no surprise that coastal bears in Alaska benefit from salmon, who return from the Pacific ocean where they feed and grow to maturity, in order to spawn and die in the streams where they were born.  Spawning salmon provide an incredible food source, which allows for the highest bear population densities and largest bears in the world.   In the 1940s and 1950s fisheries managers knew this and concluded that if there were less bears, there would be more salmon.  In an attempt to boost the fisheries economy, the State of Alaska considered heavy control of bears and other coastal predators.  Today, our views of salmon feasting bears is quite different, and many studies have shown that the presence of bears is an integral part of the health of a salmon stream....

A bear normally eats about a quarter of the fish, concentrating on the fattiest portions, such as the brains, skin and eggs if there are any left.  The rest of the salmon carcass, along with solid fecal waste from bears and other salmon eaters,  are left to decompose into the soil, where it can be absorbed by trees and vegetation.

Canadian researchers looked into this extensively as reported at Canadian Museum of Nature:

Animals and plants of the ocean and land rely on one another. Marine and forest ecosystems are joined in a complex web of life.....

Researchers at the University of Victoria, in British Columbia, have found that salmon contain a form of nitrogen that doesn't occur in terrestrial (land) animals.

The nitrogen can be tracked throughout the entire forest ecosystem, from Sitka spruce to maggots. The traces show how nutrients from the salmon's body are absorbed by other plants and animals....

They not only feed the forest, but certain plants benefit more than others:
Bears, wolves and other predators "can transfer more than 50 per cent of the salmon to the forest," they report. The rest of the fish, which die after spawning, either rot along the stream banks or are washed downstream.

To assess the impact, they looked at stream chemistry and what grew in surrounding forests....

They found species, such as salmonberry and stink currant, thriving along streams with plenty of salmon. Plants such as blueberry and false azalea prefer nutrient poor soils and were less common.

Steep watersheds -- which were less accessible to fish-toting predators -- received less salmon fertilizer and had fewer plants that thrive on nitrogen.

I saw fisherman downstream from the bears in the cam and I've seen pictures of tourists standing watching them.  So, if seeing a bear live and probably as safely as it gets in nature is on your bucket list, there are tours to Alaska that will make it happen.
....Visitors set on seeing bruins in their natural Alaska habitat have two key directions for finding them: Go where the fish are, and go where the bear viewing experts are.

Tons of fish and dozens of guides congregate each summer 200-300 miles southwest of Anchorage at a pair of brown bear-viewing bounties: Katmai National Park and Preserve and McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge.....

I don't have knowledge of any of the tours, but a Google search pulled up one for the Brooks Falls in this live cam.
The World Famous bear viewing at Brooks Falls is only a short walk from Katmailand's Brooks Lodge. As many as fifty bears can be viewed fishing along the mile and a half long Brooks River during the peak of the salmon season. Many visitors see bears within minutes of arrival. All visitors are instructed by the National Park Service on how to conduct themselves in "Bear Country".

Thank you for sharing my joy in the wild things of this earth.

Originally posted to ParkRanger on Thu Jul 26, 2012 at 03:06 PM PDT.

Also republished by Backyard Science.

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