Wild wonders: five incredible live cams bringing bears (and everything else) to your screen
Need a distraction from the chaos of the end-of-year season? Here's your escape. Angus Delaney explores the wonderful world of wildlife live cams and gives you five of the best
The final three months of the year are so fraught with holidays centred on spending money – wouldn't it be wonderful if there was something to celebrate that was truly pure?
Thankfully, one week remains sacred: Fat Bear Week, which runs counter to the prevailing spirit of the season: unfetter moneymaking (and spending!) This year’s event just culminated in a win for 128 Grazer, a truly rotund bear who defeated runner up 32 Chunk by a landslide, amassing over 100,000 votes on the final day.
For many, early October is a time to celebrate the imminent festivities of the holiday season, particularly supermarkets looking to capitalise on the most profitable time of the year. Currently costumes and chocolates are abundant on supermarket shelves, with marked up prices to celebrate Halloween. Across the Atlantic our friends in the US will feast on turkeys while commemorating a time of violence for Indigenous Americans, building their strength for the gladiatorial combat of Black Friday.
Closer to home we are no better, with Coles and Woolies bringing in the annual October Christmas decorations, because December 25 is the shining star atop this glorious capitalist tree. Perhaps price gouging is in the spirit of Christmas this year?
Which brings us back to Fat Bear Week. It occurs in early October every year, as brown bears gorge themselves on salmon before entering hibernation. Although this may already draw some parallels to human holiday cliches, the similarities end there.
In an effort to celebrate these wild animals, trail cam footage has tracked the bears antics since 2014, showcasing the biggest bears in National Park, Alaska.
People viewing the trail cam footage can vote on their favourite fat bears, with individual animals given names and numbers, then pitted against each other in a good-natured round robin over the course of the week.
In 2022, over 1 million votes were cast.
It's about having a laugh, celebrating wildlife and getting involved, with Trail Cam footage available on explore.org giving us privileged insight into the lives of the bears.
But why limit ourselves to just brown bears one week in October? There are numerous trail cams littered all across the world, including these five rippers that broaden your horizons to all the wildlife under the sun, and moon, 24 hours a day.
It's the source of inspiration for this list, and it's obvious why. The wobbling, round, brown bears of Katmai National Park often sit by Brooks Falls, where salmon travelling upstream leaps towards open mouths. Cameras here capture heaps of different angles, focusing on bears in the shallows, underwater and on the riverbank.
The natural step up from fat bears is the African elephant, the biggest land mammal. You can check them out on explore.org's camera at Tau Waterhole, South Africa. At different times of days there are also zebras, antelopes, giraffes among others. With a trip to Africa likely not possible for most people, being able to see these unique animals on their home soil is pretty special.
The Collins Street Peregrine Falcons aren't international sensations like Katmai's plus size quadrupeds, but they've become beloved by Melburnians. After a nesting box was installed in 1991 many pairs for these insanely fast falcons have been caught on CCTV footage circulated online and in the buildings' lobby. Having captured the collective hearts of the city, these animals show the confluence of urban environments and wildlife, with the predators It's an exciting time for them now, as latest couple sit atop a cluster of eggs, poised to hatch in the coming weeks.
In North Carolina, you can catch a glimpse of sharks, rays and fish on the ocean floor in the aptly named Cape Fear area. In the eerily still water, sharks drift past the camera with great schools of fish usually sighted nearby. These cameras are attached to Frying Pan Tower, built in the 1960s by the US Coast Guard to warn ships of shallow shoals in the area. Although probably not necessary anymore, the cameras give awesome insight into like at the base of a man-mad marine structure.
Dipping back beneath the oceans surface, explore.org's cameras at Hanson Island in Canada captures stunning live footage of Orcas in action. It requires some patience, to sit and stare at the murky sea floor, listening for the trademark squeaks and pops of Killer Whale vernacular. Then, there's a sudden flash of black and white as the predators slip by the camera, fleeting and graceful. There's also footage from above the surface, giving viewers a look at the Orca's dorsal fins sweep across the still water.
Fat Bear Week is a calendar event worth celebrating, with pure intentions and no capitalist baggage. Trail cams – from bears to falcons to elephants – all offer some escapism and in the holiday rush, tuning in to watch warthog wallows in mud or sharks calmly drift in the current, could be good for us all.