July 10, 2014 at 3:28 PM ET
Forget about getting any work done today: Bear cam is up and running.
The view streaming live from Katmai National Park’s Brooks Falls in Alaska is almost un-bear-ably gripping: You may very well spot a brown (grizzly) bear gripping a salmon in its claws. The cam points at a 5-foot high waterfall where salmon swim upstream from the ocean to spawn in nearby rivers and lakes, providing an ideal snacking spot for the bears.
It’s the world’s largest run of wild sockeye salmon. Four HD cameras around the falls have caught more than 30 bears there at once, including adorable cubs.
“It’s one of the great natural wonders of the world,” said Charles Annenberg, the filmmaker and philanthropist whose Annenberg Foundation created explore.org. “It’s a natural cathedral you’re looking at, and that would make these bears the great high sages.”
The drama unfolding on the cameras rivals the best daytime television. On July 1, a mama bear was separated from her cub for 10 hours. The poor yearling climbed a tree near the camp lodge and started to bawl. (Fortunately, mother and child were reunited.)
Later that day the genre changed from melodrama to murder mystery: A bear the rangers called Tundra was found dead along the Brooks River. She had been killed and eaten by other bears in the park, where competition to eat and mate can lead to conflict. (And you thought your workplace was cutthroat.)
If you’re willing to ignore your job long enough, you’re bound to notice the many and varied ways that brown bears (a bigger, coastal kind of grizzly) go about feeding. Before you know it, it’ll be time for your lunch break.
Roy Wood, a ranger at the park and preserve, describes some of the hunting styles on this video overview. Besides simply “stand and wait," there's what Wood calls the Jacuzzi method: sitting at the bottom of the fall and pinning fish under their giant paws.
Snorkeling is another tactic: Bears just stick their faces in the water, rooting around for a payoff. Then there’s the “dash and grab”: sitting on the shore until the time is right, then launching one’s bear self into the water to grab a fish.
When you think of it, it’s not unlike the many and varied ways you and your colleagues vie to get ahead in your careers (when you’re not watching bear cam). “On a good day, a healthy bear fishing out of Brooks Falls can catch perhaps 89 lbs. of fish,” Wood says in the video.
The bear cams were launched quietly last week. July is prime time for watching the bears feed because it’s the start of the salmon’s mating season, and the cameras are on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The sun is out at all hours in Alaska, so you’re likely to see bears any time.
But if you must work, here's a way get your bear fix fast. OMG, look at all the bears!