Approaching the Bears in Katmai National Park Could Land You in Prison

Besides the obvious reason for not approaching bears

Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park. Be mindful of the bears.
Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Many years ago, I was visiting friends in Vancouver. One of the friends I was staying with decided to show me the parklands just outside of the city, and it was on this leg of the trip that I saw a sign that I’ll never forget. Below three graphics — a man in a car offering a sandwich to a bear, the bear menacing the man and a park ranger with a smoking gun standing over the bear’s body — was a slogan: A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR. What did I learn from this? Approaching bears in the park is not something you should do under any circumstances.

This is a lesson that plays out in a number of different ways. (See also: Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man.) And yet, it’s something that people still seem bound and determined to ignore. The latest installment of poor park bear etiquette comes from Katmai National Park. If you’re unfamiliar with the park in question, it’s the one that holds Fat Bear Week each year, allowing people around the world to gaze upon photos of pre-hibernation bears in a condition that would be accurately described as “chonky.”

Note the presence of the word “photos” in the above paragraph. Checking out bears in the wild — whether they are fat, thin or moderately-sized — is something that should be done from a vast distance, unless you are a trained professional. Unfortunately for a group of tourists in Katmai, they decided not to heed that advice. And now they’re facing something that, while not quite as bad as being mauled by a bear, is still pretty bad — namely, a stint in prison.

As Emma Veidt at Backpacker reports, three men were recorded wandering away from a viewing platform to take photos of the bears. They currently face a number of misdemeanor charges — including one for being within 50 yards of a large animal — and could end up with a maximum of six months in prison, along with a fine and probation.

The men’s breach of park laws was caught on camera, as the park is home to a number of webcams set up to monitor the bears that reside there. Fat Bear Week giveth, and Fat Bear Week taketh away.

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