Three men have been federally charged for illegally leaving the Brooks Falls viewing platform and entering a closed area of the Brooks River at Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, AK on August 9, 2018. The men are all charged with creating a hazardous condition in a closed area and approaching within 50 yards of brown bears.
The information alleges that David Engelman, 56, of Sandia Park, New Mexico, and Ronald J. Engelman II, 54, and Steven Thomas, 30, both of King Salmon, Alaska, left the authorized Brooks Falls viewing platform and waded into the Brooks River below Brooks Falls. The three men created a hazardous condition as brown bears were feeding on the falls and in the Brooks River just below the falls. As they waded into the Brooks River the three men came within 50 yards of the brown bears.
“People need to recognize that these are wild brown bears. These visitors are lucky that they escaped the situation without injury. The possible consequences for the bears and themselves could have been disastrous.”
– Park Superintendent Mark Sturm
Footage captured by a streaming bear-cam at Alaska’s Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park & Preserve shows one of the men trying to get close to several of the large animals to capture a selfie and other photographs.
If convicted, they each face a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a $5,000 fine, and a year of probation. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Katmai National Park and Preserve in southwestern Alaska protects over four million acres of land and coastal resources including the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and the Brooks River area which is particularly notable for a rich habitat that supports one of the world’s highest concentrations of salmon and brown bears. The park and preserve also protect 9,000 years of human history integrated on the landscape and offer unique opportunities to explore vast wilderness and immense volcanoes, watch brown bears, fish for salmon and trout, and many other activities.
The National Park Service is investigating the case.