Welcome to another installment of the brown bears that live in Katmai National Park!
We stayed at Brooks Lodge for three days. Oh, how I wish we could have stayed longer! Every minute we could, we were bear-watching and snapping photographs. While observing the bears, we began to notice a wide assortment of fishing styles. When they were young cubs, they learned by watching the momma bears. Undoubtedly, they adapt their learned tactics based on the location, the amount of salmon running, and the pecking order at the fishing hole. Some like the deep areas, and some like the shallow places. Some bears don’t fish at all, but spend their time begging nibbles from the catchers or eating leftover fish debris in the river and along the banks. Apparently, the human race doesn’t have a monopoly on moochers!
Every photographer who visits Brooks Falls tries to capture the iconic scene of a fish jumping into the waiting jaws of an 800-pound brown bear, poised at the top of the waterfall. I never got such an image. There were very few times that a bear actually positioned itself at that precipice. And none caught a fish from that spot while I was there. The majority of the action occurs in the river below the falls.
Here are a few memorable examples of fishing styles. First, there is the paw scoop. Yikes, look at those claws!
Here is a variation that I call the toe dip. The cute ballerina pose resulted in an unforgettable image for me!
This handsome bear was floating across a calm part of the river near the lower river platform. It was ready to dive in for a catch.
The king fisherman of the group at the falls, Genghis, commanded a reserved spot in a “Jacuzzi” section. It seemed like this guy pulled in salmon every 10 to 15 minutes! It was a superb location because the salmon got caught in a natural eddy current. Not only did he out-fish all the other bears, he enjoyed a therapeutic water massage in-between meals!
This burly fellow had his jaws ready to shovel in his catch. I was amused to see a photograph of this same bear on Moose Peterson's blog recently. Moose is a noted professional who specializes is wildlife photography. He visited Brooks Falls in 2009 and was captivated by this bear dubbed Ted. It was easy for me to recognize Ted by the large scar on his rump. Such a mark is a painful reminder that there is a competitive spirit among these wild animals.
The fishing style of this furry guy made me laugh out loud. He positioned himself on a boulder in the river, downstream a hundred yards or so from the falls. As he repeatedly dunked his head in the water, he would poke his wet rump up into the air!