Friday, August 04, 2006

Ursos Arctos in the Wild

We've entered another stretch of poor weather here in Juneau, but I found a website where you can watch Grizzly Bears in the wild via a hidden camera. The following is a little background taken from the National Geographic website (photo also curtosy of the website):

It happens every summer. On any given day from late June to early August, as many as 50 brown bears may converge on Alaska’s McNeil River Falls. There they feed on the abundance of salmon running through its tumbling currents along the McNeil River. And during the season, small groups of people quietly observe them, striking what may be the perfect balance between wildlife and humans.

That formula has worked at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary since the mid-1970s, when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game—with protection of the bears in mind—began limiting viewing access at McNeil River Falls and nearby Mikfik Creek to ten people per day, selected by lottery. But why is this wilderness so special?

Established in 1967, the 200-square-mile (518 square kilometers) sanctuary protects the world’s largest concentration of wild brown bears (also known as grizzlies), and in late June they begin to congregate at McNeil River Falls to indulge in a salmon feeding frenzy. As salmon migrate upstream toward their spawning grounds, the rocks and boulders that form the falls slow them down and—along with the shallow depth—make them vulnerable to capture. For the bears, it’s as if they hear a dinner bell ringing, drawn by their appetite for chum salmon.