991 Sister's pelt hanging in the Brooks Camp visitor center

Adult Female ~ Deceased June 14, 1983

Year First Identified:  ?

Year Last Identified:  991 Sister was destroyed June 14, 1983

                                                         Offspring Of:  ?


991 Sister with her two yearlings in 1983 from Katmai Terrane blog: The Last Bear Killed at Brooks Camp

Known Litters of Cubs:  ?

Genetics Study Samples Obtained:  ?


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Distinctive Behaviors:

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Life History:


Mike Fitz' October 10, 2018 11:03 comment :  "It's possible that 94 was only 5.5 years old when she was first identified in 2008 with spring cubs. Although the bear monitoring staff at the time wasn't sure of her age, their notes indicate that 94 might have been an offspring of 236 Milkshake from a 2003 litter. Will Troyer, during his studies on Brooks River bears in the 1970s, documented one female bear ("Sister") giving birth at age 4."


June 1980:

1980.06.30:  991 Sister bent a pole to a tent.

July 1980:

1980.07.06:  991 Sister awoke campers in the middle shelter by getting into a cooler with trash, mustard, and rock salt in it.

1980.07.07:  991 Sister entered the campsite and got into a green duffle bag of food.  The campers were fishing at the time and unaware of the food in the bag.

1980.07.09:  991 Sister got into a visitor's tent.  The tent was totaled and pack was damaged.

1980.07.12:  13 occupants of south panabode cabin at Lake Brooks heard sounds in the livingroom / kitchen area of the cabin.  991 Sister ran away when someone yelled "Bear!".

991 Sister was observed pulling and tipping the garbage box outside the Brooks Lodge kitchen.

991 Sister was relocated by boat to Idavain Creek, but returned to Brooks Camp four days later.


July 1981:

July 1981: 1981.07.18:  991 Sister was observed reaching into a boat that had been beached in front of the ranger station.

1982:  with Spring Cubs

There were 5 incidents recorded where 991 Sister took backpacks and food as well as food from fishermen, from elevated storage areas and campground food caches.

July 1982:

1982.07.06:  "On July 6th, 1982, a sow with two cubs obtained fish, as well as a backpack containing additional fish, from a group of anglers. This was the first in a series of incidents that summer in which a sow with two cubs obtained food and gear from people in the vicinity of Brooks Camp.

Later on the same day, a sow with two cubs damaged an airplane float containing several fish. On July 23rd, a sow with two cubs was in the area immediately after an unidentified bear pulled five packs from the elevated storage area in the Brooks Camp campground. Six days later, on July 29th, a sow with two cubs took an unattended bag of flour from a skiff in which food was being stored. Almost month later, there was another incident involving a female with two cubs, when the sow took two backpacks from an unattended canoe.

From a bear's perspective, getting food from people is a strong reward. It greatly increases the likelihood the bear will do it again and become a threat to human safety. Bears have good memories, and the sow's behavior in 1983 was consistent with what she learned in 1982."

1983:  with 2 Yearlings Cubs, Year 991 Sister was Destroyed

June 1983:

991 Sister with her 2 yearlings , NPS photo

1983.06.12:  "On June 12th, 1983 at 11:00 AM, two people were fishing in the upper Brooks River and observed a light brown sow with two yearlings on the bank. The anglers moved farther into the river. The bears advanced toward them and then resumed walking downstream. Around 12:00 noon, a sow and her two yearlings were observed, without incident, within 10 feet of an occupied tent. At 12:30 PM, a sow with two young approached to within 15 feet of two people who were sitting on a rock in upper Brooks River. They had left an unattended daypack on the trail by the river. The daypack contained no food, but the bears picked up a camera, nosed the pack, and looked at the two people for a few minutes before moving off downstream.

Later that same afternoon at about 1:00 PM, the two anglers who had met the bears at 11:00 AM stopped to have a picnic lunch beneath the platform at Brooks Falls. They looked up and saw a sow with two yearlings nearby and moving toward them. They abandoned their food and moved away. Before they left the area, the anglers watched as the bears ate their abandoned food.

At about 2:30 pm, two people were fishing in the oxbow area of Brooks River. They saw a female with two yearlings downstream of them. The bears were moving upstream along the shore towards them. The anglers moved to the opposite shore, and the bears crossed the river and continued to approaching them. The anglers moved back into the river, and the bears followed. The anglers crossed the river and climbed up a steep, eroding hillside. One of them had difficulty. He reached a snag in the bank and was being hoisted up by the other person just as the sow reached the snag. Fortunately, the sow also had difficulty in getting past the snag. The two people continued moving away and the three bears crossed the river and disappeared into the vegetation."

1983.06.13:  "...a sow with two yearlings damaged two tents, as well as a backpack, a duffle bag, and a sleeping bag in the campground around 2:00 PM. None of these items contained any food, but the sow's behavior was becoming a danger to human safety. Park rangers made a difficult decision."

"On June 13th, the decision was made to destroy the sow, who had repeatedly obtained food and gear rewards from humans. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game concurred that it was necessary for defense of life and property."

1983.06.14:  "Around 3:00 PM on June 14th, 1983, a park ranger was on the north bank of Brooks River and saw the sow with two yearlings about 100 yards upstream. The ranger began moving downstream, and the bears disappeared into the vegetation. A person on a vantage point thought he saw the bears in the vegetation moving toward the ranger, so he radioed a warning to the ranger. The ranger jumped to an island in the river just as the sow stepped out of the vegetation at the spot where the ranger had been. The ranger crossed the river and the sow moved to the island, but did not cross the river.

The bears then moved downstream to the oxbow, where they picked up the scent of garbage that had just been placed in the area to attract them. They moved directly to the bait, where the sow was killed by rangers. The yearling cubs were hazed away and left the area. Examination of the female's carcass showed she was in excellent general condition."

"In the Brooks Camp Visitor Center, a bear pelt hangs in the rafters. This pelt belonged to a young female bear nicknamed Sister. After obtaining food and equipment from people, Sister became the last bear destroyed at Brooks Camp. This is a story of mistakes and loss. It teaches a lesson that we should never learn the hard way again."

The Lesson:

"With Sister, one incident in 1982 led to a cascading series of events in which the bear family's behavior was reinforced again and again with food like fish and play rewards like tents and backpacks. This bear's fate was entirely preventable. She was just being a bear. It was the mistakes of humans that led to the female's death.

Bears are smart animals that are quick to learn, especially when their behavior is reinforced with the reward of food. The experiences of this female and her cubs in 1982 led the female's death in 1983. Often, it only takes one person's mistake for a bear to learn to associate people with food.

In the years since the death of this bear, Brooks Camp has experienced a remarkable safety record even with increasing numbers of people and bears along the Brooks River. Food storage, gear storage, and fishing regulations have been tightened to minimize the chance that Sister's story will be repeated.   However, the lessons we take away from her story are only as good as the actions taken while visiting Katmai.

It is up to everyone—every person who visits Katmai—to keep bears safe. Today, Sister's pelt hangs in the Brooks Camp Visitor Center as a reminder of our mistakes. She taught everyone a lesson and it's a lesson that should never have to be repeated."


January 2014:

2014.01.29:  Katmai Terrane blog:  The Last Bear Killed at Brooks Camp by Ranger Mike Fitz.

2014.01.30:  Addition information from Ranger Mike Fitz via his comment below the blog:  "The cubs were yearlings (1.5 years old) when their mother was killed. From what I know, there is no record of the yearling's fate. In the 1970's rangers and biologists tried to relocate several bears from the Brooks River area. None of these relocations were successful. In one instance a plane carrying the bear to be relocated crashed and the bear inside it drowned as the plane sank (the pilot was OK). In the other instances the bears came right back to Brooks. For example, female that was relocated to the Pacific coast (which is remarkably good bear habitat) came back to Brooks within a few days or her relocation. Katmai is a big park, and the bears were taken 40 or more miles away from Brooks, but bears are creatures of habit with strong homing abilities. They want to go where they know they can find food. Once a bear knows where food is, it is nearly impossible to keep it away. Since relocation of bears has such a poor track record (and not just in Katmai), it has essentially been abandoned as bear management strategy by the National Park Service. This incident with Sister in 1983 led to the establishment of strict food and gear storage regulations in the park, and since then even stricter fishing regulations have been implemented. As a result of these rules and with new bear management practices, no bears have had to be killed at Brooks Camp since Sister. Her legacy is a reminder of the consequences of not taking the appropriate steps to secure food and equipment."

How 991 Sister Got Her Nickname:

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Known Courting & Mating:

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Known Litters of Cubs:

Mike Fitz' October 10, 2018 11:03 comment :  "It's possible that 94 was only 5.5 years old when she was first identified in 2008 with spring cubs. Although the bear monitoring staff at the time wasn't sure of her age, their notes indicate that 94 might have been an offspring of 236 Milkshake from a 2003 litter. Will Troyer, during his studies on Brooks River bears in the 1970s, documented one female bear ("Sister") giving birth at age 4."

1982:  Spring Cubs

1983:  2 Yearling Cubs

Known Relatives:

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Genetics Study Samples Obtained:

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