Bears in Camp: Just Katmai Things

Jun 16, 2021 | 0 comments

 Not a whole lot new to report on in the last week or so, besides an uptick in visitor traffic and bears. Almost every morning, we’ve had bears coming right through camp, reminding us that they actually own the place.

There are a couple sows with yearling cubs, some lanky subadults walking around, a couple courting bears, and a couple big, dominant males who like to chase the less dominant bears around, including the sows with cubs. Anytime you see a bear running, wait a moment—there’s always another bear chasing it, not far behind.

The other day, I was working in the ranger station and I caught a glimpse of a bear dash between two buildings. Then another bear. Then on the radio, someone else was calling in yet more bears moving through camp. In that moment, we had a dominant male chasing a sow and cubs out of camp, another bear on the beach, and a subadult walking through camp as well. I got up and looked out the other window of the ranger station, and watched one of my coworkers come right around the corner into bear 747, one of the biggest resident boars. 747 was chasing the sow and cubs away.

It seemed that just when my coworker got back to the group of visitors to whom he was about to give a bear orientation, the subadult came striding down the trail toward the group. It got halfway between the group and the ranger station, and stood straight up on its hind legs, looking around. It thought better of approaching the group, turned around, and came back toward the ranger station, then around it and down to the lakeshore, and then trotted off into the woods.

My heart was pounding, watching all these bears crossing paths with each other and with people. I know it was only a taste of what’s to come this summer, but boy howdy! What a rush. It’s clear that the bears don’t care to bother humans at all, but they also don’t really give damn about anyone being in their way either, and will just barrel right through if it suits them. The cubs and subadults are a little curious, but for the most part they stay out of the way as well.

The weather has gotten warm and sunny the last few days, although this also means the bugs have come out in full force. There’s also a mild head cold that seems to have infected a good number of the lodge and park staff, myself included.

Subadult walking past our wooden example bear. “Oh c’mon, that looks nothing like me!”

Sunday afternoon I started feeling a tickle in my throat, and by evening it was a full-on head cold. In pre-COVID times I might have just powered through my last couple days of work for the week, but, not wanting to infect more people, I took a couple sick days and quarantined in my cabin instead. Some very sweet co-workers kindly brought over cold medicine and orange juice and well-wishes. 

I’m feeling much better today, and expect to be fully functional by the end of my weekend—just in time for summer solstice, and to see what this salmon run is going to look like, when they finally arrive! You can also be sure I’m going to be wearing my mask all the time indoors now, even though they’ve lifted the mask mandate here. I’ve been so good about wearing it, and the one time I got a little lax with it this week, I got sick. So, back to masking!


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