Katmai National Park and Preserve is one of Alaska's most famous destinations for seeing brown bears, and there's no better spot to catch the bruins than at Brooks Falls. Every summer, the predators fish for salmon in the river's roiling whitewater, while crowds of tourists watch from viewing platforms.
But for one visitor, that wasn't close enough. As viewers around the world watched on a livestream, he waded into the river to snap a smartphone picture of the bears as they ate mere yards away.
In a statement, the National Park Service said that the incident began around 6:50 p.m. on August 9, when two Alaska residents and an out-of-state tourist slipped out an emergency exit to approach the bears. Other visitors and viewers on explore.org's bear cams contacted park authorities, who tracked down the group.
It is not clear which of the visitors were caught on camera. All three now face criminal charges for approaching within 50 feet of a bear using a concentrated food source.
"People need to recognize that these are wild brown bears," said Katmai Superintendent Mark Sturm. "These visitors are lucky that they escaped the situation without injury. The possible consequences for the bears and themselves could have been disastrous."
While NPS spokesperson Anela Marie Ramos could not confirm whether the visitors were inebriated at the time of the incident, she told Anchorage Daily News that "they were at the bar afterward."