As a resident of Alaska, Pam Aus is used to the great outdoors of what is called “The Last Frontier.” The biggest state in the Union is known for its sprawling forests and mountainous regions, as well as its incredibly diverse wildlife. But when Pam headed out to her porch one day in 2012 to check on her pet cat, the 64-year-old opened her front door to an incredible scene. Fortunately for us, she had a camera to hand to capture what she found.
Pam works for a shipping salvage company and lives off the Alaskan mainland in the remote settlement of Unalaska on the Aleutian Islands. This windswept island chain, situated between the North Pacific and the Bering Sea, has a pretty tough climate, and is shrouded in fog and rain for much of the year. The area also makes up the northern part of the seismic Pacific Ring of Fire, and several of the Aleutians’ 57 volcanoes are still very much active.
Relatively chilly and short summers and extremely harsh and long winters mean that very few trees can survive on the islands. But nevertheless, they are covered with grasses and flowering plants. The Aleutians also boast millions of seabirds, many of which – including the whooper swan and black-headed gull – cannot be found anywhere else in North America. In addition, the rocky shores of the Aleutian Islands provide homes for countless numbers of puffins, gulls and guillemots.
As well as seabirds, this part of Alaska is also famed for its native marine mammals, such as northern sea otters and harbor seals. But perhaps the most famous resident of the region is the bald eagle. Nowhere else in the Union is home to so many of the USA’s national bird as Alaska, with as many as 30,000 thought to be living in the state.
In fact, eagles are a frequent feature of Pam’s YouTube channel, where the animal lover regularly shares wildlife videos with almost 60,000 subscribers. Her cats, Gizmo and Suitcase, also star in several of the channel’s short films. Indeed, some of Pam’s most popular clips show off her pets as they interact with the local wildlife. And the filmed evidence would suggest that the unlikely cast of critters all get along just fine.
Seemingly, two of the other big stars on Pam’s A-list are two bald eagles who have apparently taken up residence not far from her home. She has nicknamed the birds Mr. and Mrs. Eagle, and claims they frequently come to perch on her front porch. Gizmo and Suitcase do not appear to be perturbed at all by their winged co-stars. Actually, in one video, one of the eagles bats away a curious cat with its wing when the over-friendly feline gets too close.
So seeing Alaska’s incredible wild animals and birds up close and personal is nothing new for Pam. But when she heard a loud noise coming from her front porch one day in March 2012, she decided that she ought to take a look. Pam later told the Huffington Post she was in her living area, working on her computer, when she heard a squawk from outside. Armed with her camera, she went out to investigate…
In the video, Pam films herself opening her front door, saying, “I keep hearing these calls for me.” She tells us the cries for attention are emanating from the eagle her camera picks up as the fearsome bird of prey perches quite happily on the rail of her front porch. But it is soon apparent that he is not the only one waiting for his close up as Pam heads outside.
As soon as the animal lover steps out on to the snowy decking of her porch, viewers can see an incredible gathering just outside her front door. Not only is the attention-seeking eagle present, but the camera looks down to see a fox sitting quietly below the majestic bird. And we then see Gizmo sat on the other side of the porch, where the cat is quickly joined by Suitcase.
Pam told the Huffington Post website that she found the foxes living in the area to be friendly and unaggressive. At one point in the video, the fox even looks like it might be asking to come inside the house and out of the frozen conditions. Nevertheless, it appears that Pam considers seeing all three animals sitting so peacefully on her porch as excitement enough.
The Alaskan resident uploaded the short film to her YouTube channel in late March 2012, and since then it has attracted in excess of an amazing ten million views. One enthusiastic commenter on the video-sharing platform called the clip “one of the most amazing pieces of nature footage I’ve ever seen.” Pam points out to her followers that a second eagle can also be seen in the background of the shot, sitting on a lamppost further down the street, surveying the scene.
And when she posted the video, Pam wrote in the caption, “They aren’t always out to attack and kill each other. Our fox and eagles and cats basically get along just fine here.” But skeptics of this assertion should maybe watch some of the other clips on Pam’s channel – many of which appear to bear out her claim.
One of the heartwarming videos on Pam’s list stars Gizmo and Suitcase as they sit on her porch being entertained by two baby foxes as they snack on berries nearby. This cute scene is being watched by an eagle eye, but the bird shows no fear of the cats, foxes or even the human filming in close proximity. Pam informed the Huffington Post about a group of foxes living in the snowy hills around her home, and the hundreds of eagles to be seen in the surrounding area.
Pam has said that she is “amazed” by how well all the critters get along when they congregate around her Unalaskan home. In another video caption, she explained, “They have been surviving in the same environment for a few years now and just seem to respect each other.” Another interaction the animal lover captured on camera shows one of her cats getting too close to an eagle on the porch, only to be spooked as the enormous bird takes flight.
Nevertheless, Mr. and Mrs. Eagle never seem interested in harming Pam’s felines in her films, despite the myth that eagles can carry off pet cats and dogs. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, reports of such a thing happening to domestic animals have never been confirmed. The government agency says that the bald-eagle diet is mostly made up of sealife and smaller mammals.
The bald eagle is the largest bird of prey to be found in Alaska, with a wing span that can reach more than seven feet across. But, according to experts, the seabird’s lifting power is limited to about four pounds. For reference, the average domestic cat – such as Gizmo and Suitcase – weighs roughly ten pounds.
Although Mr. and Mrs. Eagle appear friendly in Pam’s videos, in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News in April 2012, the camerawoman insisted that she never feeds them. She said that they were just “used to being around people.” But in another Q-and-A session from about that time, Pam did acknowledge that this could be a cause for concern. In a report on U.S. National Public Radio, the animal lover said that, during tough winters, the region’s wildlife sometimes interacted more with Alaska’s human population due to food scarcity.
But it is not just foxes and eagles who take top-billing in Pam’s wildlife productions. She has also posted fantastic footage to YouTube starring sea lions and even a brown bear that she spotted on the nearby Kodiak Island.
There is a massive population of some 30,000 brown bears in Alaska. Indeed, this figure represents no less than 98 percent of the U.S. population of these magnificent mammals.
Watching Pam’s YouTube videos gives the rest of the world an amazing insight into the wildlife of Alaska. But nonetheless, in 2012 the film maker told National Public Radio that she did not think her fellow Alaskan residents would be particularly impressed by her footage of the visiting fox, Mr. and Mrs. Eagle, and Gizmo and Suitcase’s little get-together. Pam shrugged, “They’d go, ‘big deal, I could have taken that on my porch,’ you know?”