Katamai National Park & Preserve in southern Alaska is widely known for its remote beauty and wildlife, including sock-eye salmon and the brown bears that feed on them. A project began in June 2012 to capture their lives using remote surveillance technology. To date, more than $1 million has been spent to live-stream video from the site 24 hours a day.

HDOnTap, a specialist provider of live webcam streaming services, hardware and customized off-grid power, wireless network, and remote live cam solutions for wildlife viewing, was brought in at the beginning of the planning stages. The project aims to bring this site to enthusiasts and scientists around the globe without disturbing or influencing the bears’ natural behavior.

“The bears’ feeding site (the Brooks River between Naknek Lake and Brooks Lake) is 40 miles away from the nearest town with any Internet access and grid power, so it really is the very definition of ‘remote,’” said the founder of HDOnTap, Tim Sears. “First we had to install two mountain top hybrid off-grid powered repeater sites, whilst local solar power was installed at the river falls where the bears usually catch the migrating salmon. The first trip to site required a huge amount of planning, including helicopter and seaplane charter to the site. Multiple cameras were then set-up to catch the action, and since then, we have returned to the site each year to upgrade the system — essentially to utilize the latest developments in the surveillance industry, to provide interested viewers and scientists with the best possible live video experience of the feeding bears.”

For nighttime coverage, Sears used his experience at other wildlife observation installations to deploy his preferred brand of infrared illuminators. “We’ve used iluminar LED IR lighting equipment exclusively on all our previous installations, and we were confident that the deployment of iluminar products would also meet the requirements here,” he said. “iluminar LED lighting products have proved to be high-performance, reliable and simple to install every time we use them, even in the harshest of environments. This installation is so remote that there is no such thing as a ‘simple service call out.’ A trip to this site costs thousands of dollars in travel and time, so any product used here needs to be reliable and work faultlessly — right out of the box.”

Sears used iluminar’s IR919 Series to provide illumination for the scene most populated by the bears for their fishing activities. The iluminar IR919 Series supports Sony cameras to capture bear activity, even in hours of total darkness.

Spectacular footage from the site is now available all over the world, giving a unique insight into the bears’ behavior, miles from anywhere — and most importantly, without disturbing or influencing the bears’ behavior at the site, so a true picture of the bears’ activities can be observed.

“Over the years we have gathered some remarkable footage at Katamai,” Sears said. “There have been some scientific highlights too, including how fiercely territorial the bears can be about their fishing spot at the falls, and each bears’ individual method of fishing for the leaping salmon.

 “The iluminar IR919 series has been so successful at the site that as part of our upgrade visit this year, we plan to look at the inclusion of iluminar’s new 2 Series ra     nge of IR illuminators. This will ensure that the technical performance of the installation remains at the forefront of surveillance technology, and all parties continue to benefit from this scientifically important and educationally significant footage.”