(Editor’s warning: This story might cause hours of lost work, sleep and social interaction with others.)
A bear cam set up in Katmai National Park and Preserve in southern Alaska has thousands of people by the hour watching bears catching salmon in a river.
Conde Nast Traveler nails the description: “Guess you could call it a live stream of a live stream.”
It is one of two bear cams set up inside the national park, but by far the most popular. Last year alone it attracted more than 22 million views, according to KDLG public radio in Dillingham, Ala., and it has just hit its prime viewing season.
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This year the cam is set up at the noisy, bustling falls on Brooks River, where the salmon are leaping out of the water and flying through the air like sugar-buzzed gymnasts.
“Every year over a hundred Brown Bears descend on a mile long stretch of Brooks River to feast on the largest Sockeye Salmon run in the world,” the webcam’s YouTube description says.
This is the sixth year for the park’s popular bear cams, which show live footage from popular bear hangouts in the park and attract thousands of viewers daily, KDLG reports. The bear viewing lasts into the fall.
About 2,200 bears live in Katmai National Park, so there’s almost always something going on.
The park provides the webcams with Explore.org, which describes itself as “the largest live nature cam network on the planet.”
A multi-cam view of bear activity is also available on the Explore.org website, proving that nonstop images of adorable bear cubs frolicking in unspoiled nature is hypnotically soothing.
Bear Cam. Nature’s Xanax.
But things got a little heated a few days ago when one of bear cams caught two bears, nicknamed Grazer and Beadnose, squaring off with lots of growls on the river bank.
Just two mama bears being protective of their cubs, park officials said.
“People are really excited and interested in seeing the bears in their natural environment,” park superintendent Mark Sturm told KDLG.
“Providing the whole wide world the opportunity to see the resources that Katmai has and to give them an opportunity to view some of the behaviors that they exhibit has really been a successful collaboration.”
The live stream at the river is also posted to Explore.org’s Facebook page, where every now and then a park ranger will drop in and offer live narration and bear trivia.
Thursday morning a ranger explained how the salmon weigh 5 to 10 pounds each, are “pure muscle,” very slippery, and that bears make it look very easy to catch them.
Conde Nast Traveler suggests viewers keep an eye out for three of the area’s best-known bears – Otis, Flo and Ugly.
Sorry, they don’t wear name tags.