Katmai National Park & Preserve

Katmai National Park & Preserve

Bears at Katmai

Bears

The protection of brown bears is an equally compelling priority for the park. To preserve this magnificent animal and its varied habitat, the boundaries of Katmai were extended over the years, and in 1980, the area was designated a national park and preserve. 

Bears

The protection of brown bears is an equally compelling priority for the park. To preserve this magnificent animal and its varied habitat, the boundaries of Katmai were extended over the years, and in 1980, the area was designated a national park and preserve. 

The number of brown bears at Katmai has grown to more than 2,000. During the peak of the world's largest sockeye salmon run each July—and the return of the "spawned out" salmon in September—bears typically congregate in Brooks Camp along the Brooks River and the Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake shorelines. To the east, coastal bears enjoy clams, crabs and an occasional whale carcass. This dietary wealth of protein and fat helps them build weight so they'll be prepared to endure the long winter ahead.

Alaska's brown bears and grizzlies are now considered to be one species, though people commonly consider grizzlies to be those that live 100 miles and more inland. Browns, in fact, are bigger than grizzlies thanks to their rich diet of fish. There are also Kodiak brown bears, a distinct subspecies that is geographically isolated on Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. 

Mature male bears in Katmai may weigh up to 900 pounds. Mating occurs from May to mid-July, and cubs are born in dens in mid-winter. Up to four cubs may be born per litter, weighing just a mere pound each! Cubs stay with their mother for two years, during which time she does not reproduce. The interval between litters usually runs at least three years. Brown bears don't tend to put down roots, instead they dig a new den every year, entering it in November and emerging to greet spring in April. About half a bear's lifetime is spent in their dens.