Selfie with Katmai bears lands man in hot water
A man who wandered into view of the online Katmai bear camera Thursday, taking a photo of himself close to the national park and preserve’s famous grizzly bears, is drawing condemnation from park authorities.
Video from the bear camera shows the man – wearing a white shirt and chino shorts – walking into water near roughly half a dozen grizzlies, then turning to face the bear camera and holding up his phone to take the shot.
Anela Ramos, a National Park Service spokeswoman, said the incident occurred just before 7 p.m. Thursday, at Brooks Falls in the park's Brooks Camp.
"A group of individuals accessed the closed area below the falls and approached bears on a concentrated food source," Ramos wrote in an email.
A statement Friday afternoon from park officials said the group that entered the closed area included two Alaskans and one Outside visitor.
"In doing so, the group violated National Park Service wildlife viewing regulations, putting themselves and wildlife at risk," park officials wrote. "Immediately after the incident, Katmai rangers received multiple reports from concerned visitors and explore.org bear cam viewers who observed the violations. The group was contacted by park rangers and charges are pending. Details on identities will be released when charges are finalized."
Park superintendent Mark Sturm emphasized the danger of Thursday's actions in the statement, which noted that the park's elevated bear viewing platforms are intended to let visitors safely view the animals.
“People need to recognize that these are wild brown bears," Sturm said. "These visitors are lucky that they escaped the situation without injury. The possible consequences for the bears and themselves could have been disastrous.”
Park visitors are barred from approaching within 50 yards of bears feeding on food sources like salmon. In addition, area closures are in place at Brooks Falls between July 15 and Aug. 15 to let bears feed without interruption.
Another Park Service spokesperson, Peter Christian, said that park officials were “not pleased” with the incident, which involved a group of Alaskan visitors from King Salmon.
"I also know that alcohol is likely involved," Christian said. "This is a 'Here, hold my beer' moment."
Possible charges in the encounter include entering a closed area, reckless endangerment and harassing wildlife, Christian said.
Last month, park officials said bear-human interactions were up this year due to a large number of subadult bears – including two encounters in which bears touched but didn’t injure people.
Katmai staff have posted a series of bear safety guidelines on the park's website.
Scott Jensen and Cassie Schirm contributed information to this story.
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