Each year, sockeye salmon runs inundate the backcountry rivers of Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. They navigate...

The Right Place at the Right Time

Alaska, USA

Each year, sockeye salmon runs inundate the backcountry rivers of Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. They navigate from the open ocean into the rivers, lakes, and streams, back to the headwaters in which they were hatched. There they spawn and lay the eggs that will give rise to the next generation. Tens of millions of Sockeye salmon enter the park’s waters each year.

As the salmon concentrate, so do the bears. It is estimated that 2,200 brown bears inhabit the park, one of the highest densities in the world. Many of these normally solitary bears head toward the waterways, moving upstream with the salmon, gorging themselves along the way.

But the bears must be wary and follow the rules of congregating. The larger bears generally get the best fishing spots. Bears size each other up and tussles break out. Moms must protect their cubs, while teaching them to fish. Most avoid direct interactions with others, but sometimes lessons are learned the hard way.

A wider-angle lens is used here to set the overall scene. A polarizer was added to cut through the glare and showcase the salmon in the foreground. One bear fished, while two others eat. A mom with her cub evaluates the intentions of an approaching bear. Gulls wait around for scraps. There is a lot going on at any one time. Photo © copyright by Dr. Edward Mikol.

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