NPS Investigates Bear Deaths Caught on Camera

Two bears died in front of a webcam at Katmai National Park in October.

The National Park Service is investigating a series of bear deaths in Katmai National Park in Alaska after two bears died in front of the park’s bear cam.

Thousands of viewers regularly watch the bear cam, and even more tuned in as a brown bear cub collapsed and died two days later at the end of October. Not soon after, another bruin, this one an adult, collapsed and died on camera.

NPS field biologist Michael Saxton said NPS doesn’t yet know the cause of death.

“It seems to be pretty sudden,” he said. “Gross necropsy has already been completed. We’ve examined the organs to see if anything is visibly traumatic. We would expect to get toxicology reports back fairly but getting back things like bacteria cultures could take months.”

Troy Hamon, Katmai’s chief of resource management, said the park has never witnessed a bear die from unknown causes like this.

“We see bears, especially cubs, being killed by other bears; that’s why mother bears are very protective,” Hamon said, adding that they also sometimes find bears dead at the bottom of cliffs. “But our understanding of the non-traumatic mortality modes is fairly uncommon.”

The bears’ bodies were shipped to the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., for testing.