We just passed the unofficial middle of summer, July 4. With that marker comes a usual complaint: there’s nothing to watch on TV. But now that most regular programs are on hiatus, I’ve found something far more fascinating: spying on the real-time lives of wild animals.
Below, I’ve listed five of my favorite nature-cam channels—live feeds of various species in their habitats around the globe. I hope you find these shows as entertaining as I do.
1. Brown bears at Brooks Falls, Katmai Park National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Anyone who has traveled to Katmai National Park and Preserve knows about the spectacular opportunity it offers to view brown bears from three platforms near Brooks Falls. Katmai provides one of the few remaining, unaltered habitats for the bears; and the National Park Service estimates that approximately 2,200 of them inhabit the park. Every summer, the bears congregate to feast on sockeye salmon in the Brooks River. With the help of live footage from explore.org, the largest live-nature cam network on the planet, those of us who can’t be there in person can watch the bears remotely.
Warning: this live feed can easily become addicting.
2. Walruses on Main Beach, Round Island, Alaska
The Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary is a remote, seven-island preserve in northern Alaska’s Bristol Bay. It protects one of the largest terrestrial haul-out sites in North America for Pacific walruses. Each spring and summer, thousands of male walruses—sometimes as many as 14,000 in a single day—can be seen on the exposed, rocky Main Beach on Round Island, where this live cam is located.
The sanctuary also protects the habitats of several species of seabirds, Steller sea lions, and other marine and terrestrial birds and mammals. See how many you can spot on this live stream from explore.org.
3. Puffins in the Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge, Maine
The National Audubon Society teamed up with explore.org at the Seal Island National Wildlife Refuge in Maine to set up a wildlife camera on what Audubon calls the “Loafing Ledge.”
In 1887, excessive hunting of the Seal Island puffins decimated the population. Almost 100 years later, in 1984, a restoration effort began with the translocation of nearly 1,000 young puffins from Newfoundland. Now, more than 500 pairs breed and nest on the island, one of the few times they leave their true home: the ocean.
While the charismatic puffins are the stars of the Loafing Ledge, viewers may also catch glimpses of three other striking, black-and-white seabirds: black guillemots, common murres and razorbills. You may even see an Audubon Project Puffin intern, studying the puffins and other species.
The operators of the video stream say that it is occasionally affected by factors such as dense fog, changes in the tide or reflections off the sea surface. During these times, the images may be lost. But stay tuned—the signal will be quickly restored.
4. Elephants of Tembe Elephant Park, South Africa
This live webcam from Tembe Elephant Park, located in northeast South Africa, is focused on the Mahlasela Pan water hole. While the herds of elephants freely range over the 115-square-mile park, they occasionally come to the water hole to drink and take refreshing mud baths.
Even if the elephants are not present at the water hole at the time you tune in, you’ll be able to hear the sounds of birds and other wildlife. It feels like the closest thing to being in Africa while at your home or office. Volunteers from around the world operate the camera remotely, which is powered by solar panels. Click here.
5. The Earth
I consider the International Space Station’s High Definition Earth Viewing project’s cameras to be critter cams—just ones from very, very far away. Four commercial high-definition (HD) video cameras, enclosed in pressurized and temperature-controlled housings, are aimed at the Earth from an altitude of more than 200 miles.
The live feed typically sequences through shots from the various cameras. As they cycle, each camera must turn off and the next camera turn on before the HD video starts, taking about eight to 10 seconds to change. Between camera switches, a gray and then black color slate will briefly appear.
While watching this feed, not only will you appreciate the technology involved but the beautiful and delicate sphere we are privileged to call home. Click here.
Whether you’re looking for some bear action, the white noise of rushing waters, the sounds of nature, or just searching for the feeling of a bigger world out there that’s far removed from our day-to-day worries, tune in to one of these “reality shows.” We’re definitely not alone.
Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,