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The Magnificent Brown Bears of Katmai National ParkEstablished in 1918 and encompassing nearly four million acres, Katmai National Park is perhaps best known for its beautiful rainbow trout and incredible brown bear population. Despite being home to 29 species of land animals, 6 species of sea mammals, 150 species of birds and 28 species of fish, there is no other animal that so captivates the heart and imagination as the Alaskan Brown Bear. While there are other brown bear populations around the world, and indeed in other parts of Alaska, none is so special or unique as the bear population within Katmai.
For the last several decades, hunting has only been allowed on a limited basis within the park and not at all within the Katmai National Park and Preserve. This means that the majority of bears grow up having no fear of humans. This is not to say they are more aggressive towards people, rather, they are not as apt to run away because they don’t relate people with fear or bad experiences. In fact, bears learn from a very young age that people are indeed tolerable beings and are viewed with about as much interest as a passing seagull. Baby bears watch how their mothers interact with humans and when they see that they are generally calm and relaxed, take this as a precedence for which they will pass along to their own offspring.
With this being said, the bear viewing and photography opportunities within Katmai are phenomenal. As the bears are so habituated to the presence of humans, you can truly see the bears acting like bears in their natural environment. You will see them chasing, catching and eating wild salmon. You will see them sleeping, foraging for berries and swimming. You will see mother bears with two, three and even four small cubs and you will see constantly how the wild, beautiful bears interact with one another.
Despite the bear’s general good nature and indifference towards humans, it is still important to realize that these are very wild animals and should be respected as such. The guides at Royal Wolf always carry some form of protection, generally bear spray, and are experts at reading bear behavior and body language. In the lodge’s history, there have been no serious issues with bears and clients are given a bear safety speech prior to their first outing. For the most part human and bear peacefully coexist, often fishing side by side and enjoying the best fishing Alaska has to offer.
Aside from the brown bears, there is an abundance of animal life including tundra swans, ducks, loons, grebes and arctic terns which migrate over 20,000 miles annually. There are grouse, ptarmigan, a plethora of sea birds and over forty types of songbirds that summer in the park. In the highest of tree tops, there are bald eagles, hawks, falcons and owls, while on the ground reside moose, caribou, red fox, wolves, lynx, wolverine, river otters, mink, marten, weasels, porcupine, snowshoe hares, red squirrels and beaver. Along the coastline there are sea lions, hail seals, sea otters and occasionally beluga, killer and gray whales which use the Shelikof Strait. While this list is certainly not all-inclusive, it gives a good idea of the wide range of animals that call this park their home. With no shortage of wildlife (not least of which is the iconic brown bear), spectacular scenery and amazing fishing opportunities, Katmai National Park is an incredible destination and one that Royal Wolf Lodge considers a privilege to call home.