What Exactly is a Bear Jam in Katmai National Park & Preserve? Let Ranger Michael Glore Explain

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Brown bears are easy to spot in Katmai National Park and Preserve when the salmon are running. NPS photo by Peter Hamel.

Kurt Repanshek's picture

What, you might wonder, is a bear jam in Katmai National Park and Preserve? To understand this phenomenon, listen to this podcast in which Ranger Michael Glore differentiates between jamming bears and a crush of tourists anxious to see brown bears at Brooks Camp.


I was just in a bear jam at Katmai. A sow and single cub decided to take a little nap on the north side of the Brooks River bridge. Fortunately it was hot and sunny out, which may have helped precipitate the bear nap, so the crowd gathering on the southside viewing platform (where I was) was in high spirits watching other bears while these two slept. There were a couple single adults snorkeling their way across the mouth of the river, looking for fish underwater with just their ears appearing above the water's surface. A sow and two yearling cubs fished, that would be mom, and played, that would be the two cubs, to within feet of the viewing platform, giving everyone great photo opportunities. And then there was the sow and three spring cubs working their way across the marsh beyond the trail on the north side and while we couldn't see them make their way through the camp area, we sure heard the radio traffic as the rangers kept tabs on where they were. Yep, it was a very beary day at Brooks Camp and one that kept the park service busy managing the humans so the bears were not interrupted in what bears like to do. Keeping an area as natural as possible for bears while allowing humans to watch will result in bear jams, not only at the bridge but also along the trails. Its a good thing NPS has the people power to manage all these humans that are both overnighting at the lodge or campground or flying in for the day. Without their ability to keep humans and bears apart - but within viewing distance - this would not be the cool experience that it is.