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Tourists Could Do Prison Time After Approaching Bears at Katmai National Park

They were caught after livestream viewers saw them wade into the river.

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Three years after livestream viewers spotted them approach feeding bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve’s Brooks River, three men are facing federal charges, federal prosecutors have announced.

The men are accused of leaving a designated viewing platform near the park’s popular Brooks Falls to take pictures of brown bears in the incident, which Explore.org’s popular livestream captured. In a press release, the U.S. attorney for the District of Alaska said that the men, two Alaskans and a visitor from New Mexico, “created a hazardous condition for the bears.”

The three currently face misdemeanor charges of entering a closed area, disorderly conduct that created hazardous conditions, and approaching within 50 yards of a large mammal at the national park. If these three are convicted, each faces a maximum six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, and a year of probation.

Park rangers became aware of the situation in 2018 after people watching the live video feed alerted them that a group of tourists had apparently waded into the river. The Brooks River has the park’s highest concentration of salmon for its estimated 2,200 bears, and during late summer and fall, these bears eat up to 100,000 calories of salmon a day to prepare for the upcoming hibernation.

Bear encounters are not uncommon at Katmai, but it’s usually the bears encountering the people. The park says it’s a safe zone for bears, and visitors to Brooks Camp must listen to a safety orientation upon arrival.