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The matriarch of the Alaska bear cam makes her glorious return to the river
JAY GORY, MANAGING EDITOR, science
In 1989, park rangers first spotted Bear 410 as a small cub.  Since then, she often returns to the banks of the salmon-filled river where she grew up. And again, nearly 30 years later, this old, remarkable bear has come back, claiming her status as the Brooks River's oldest known bear.  SEE ALSO: From puffins to brown bears: The 10 best wildlife livestreams of the summer "Each year she returns, I'm more amazed," said Mike Fitz, a former Katmai park ranger who reports on the bear cam for explore.org. "The competition and risks don't get any easier for her, but she continues to survive and make a living." Bear 410 as a far more plump bear in the fall.Image: nps/r. WoodJust over a week ago, the explore.org bear cams came online in Katmai National Park and began spotting hungry brown bears returning to the area in anticipation of the salmon run. On Friday, Bear 410 made her bear cam return, walking through the cold water for a moment before moving off-camera. From afar, the bear world can be full of intrigue and wonder. But for the animals, it's a harsh, competitive world. And they have limited time to fatten up before the callous Alaskan winter arrives.  Brown bears can live for around 20 years. A number of circumstances, however, make it difficult for aging bears to survive this long, not least of which include deteriorated or rotting teeth. But 410 lives on, nearing her 30th year. Another older bear, Bear 480 (called "Otis"), is around 20 years old, but he's yet to be seen this year. "They live in a competitive and risky world, but their longevity demonstrates a level of individual success few bears achieve," said Fitz. That we can spy on their harsh reality at all is remarkable, as the Brooks River sits in one of the most remote national parks. It is off-the-grid in most every respect.  There are no roads or power lines connecting this area to the developed world, and explore.org must beam bear cam footage to the top of a mountain so it can be relayed to the world beyond. Bear 410, as a river elder, seems to have earned a bit of respect at Brooks Falls. In the bear world bigger means more dominant, and these creatures are protective of their space — particularly the prime fishing spots. But even the largest bears seem to tolerate 410's presence in the river.  Just this morning, the formidable bear 747 — who chowed down on about a dozen 4,500-calorie fish over the course of just about two hours — didn't seem to react when 410 came down to the river and approached his fishing area.  You can see this for yourself at about the 35 second mark in the video below. Bear 410 is one of the more recognizable bears on the river, owing to her thick brow.  Her summer coat is a lighter brown, but like most all bears, she'll undergo a transformation after eating fat sockeye salmon for the next three months. 410 gets particularly plump — which gives her plenty of resources to last through the long winter famine. In fact, Bear 410 made it to the semifinals of Katmai's 2017 "Fattest Bear Competition." Already this year, Bear 410, while old, has not been enfeebled by age. "When I saw her last evening she appeared large and healthy," said Fitz.  WATCH: A tiny satellite could be the key to cleaning up our space trash read more
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