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On The Trail Of Juneau’s Bears
Juneau is many things – a mountain town, a coastal community, and the capital of wild and wonderful Alaska! Juneau is also the perfect basecamp if you want to go bear viewing. Bear viewing in Juneau, Alaska is one of Alaska’s greatest wildlife experiences. The city’s estuaries and salmon streams provide bears in Juneau with everything they need to survive. There are so many bears in Juneau that you are sure to see one during your visit! Keep reading to learn more about the best place to spot bears in Juneau, Alaska.
What Kind Of Bears Can You See In Juneau?
There are two main species of bears in Juneau: black bears and brown bears. Don't be fooled by the names, both bear species come in a variety of colors. Believe it or not, black bears can be brown, and brown bears can be black! They also come in a lot of colors in between. Here are some of the main differences between the two:
- Black bears are smaller than brown bears. An adult male black bear weighs on average 400 pounds.
- Black bears have a straight, flat-faced profile.
- Black bears do NOT have a shoulder hump.
- Black bears come in a variety of colors – black, brown, cinnamon-colored, or even blue. The rare blue bear is also known as a glacier bear.
- Black bears tend to live in inland, forested areas.
- Brown bears are larger than black bears. Some adult male brown bears average 1,000 pounds!
- Brown bears have a noticeable shoulder hump.
- Brown bears have longer claws than black bears. They use their claws to dig for food in sandy, coastal areas.
- Brown bears are most often found in Alaska’s coastal regions.
- Brown bears feed on salmon during Alaska’s annual salmon runs, although they also eat beach grass, sedges, and dig for clams along the shore.
The Best Place To Go Bear Viewing in Juneau, Alaska
The best place to see bears in Juneau is on Admiralty Island. Located 15 miles southwest of Juneau, Admiralty Island is a rugged island, with mountains that rise to 4,650 feet and is covered by tundra and icefields. The island is home to an estimated 1,600 brown bears, which is one of the largest bear populations in the world. There are more bears on Admiralty Island than in the lower 48 states combined.
Bear viewing tours to Admiralty Island usually take place at the Pack Creek Bear Sanctuary. During summer months, you might see as many as 25 bears come together to feast on salmon at the sanctuary. For the best bear viewing at the sanctuary, head to the viewing spit at the mouth of Pack Creek, where you can watch bears fish for salmon. Or take a one-mile trek inland through old-growth rainforests and climb to the top of the sanctuary’s Observation Tower. From there, you can watch bears splashing in the waterfall below.
How To Get To Admiralty Island From Juneau
If you want to see bears in Juneau, Alaska, you’ll have to head 40 miles out of town – to Pack Creek. The only way to get to the viewing area is by floatplane, boat, or kayak. The fastest way to get there is by plane – it’s only a 30-minute flight, vs. a 3.5-hour boat ride! But, if you want to enjoy Alaska’s incredible scenery, a boat ride along the coast might be a good option for you!
When Is The Best Time To Visit Admiralty Island?
If you want to go bear viewing in Juneau, Alaska you will need to plan your trip during the summer months. Before bears hibernate they fatten up on salmon. Bears hibernate during the winter months, so you will not be able to see them during that time. Peak season for bear viewing on Admiralty Island runs from July 5 to August 25. To avoid the crowds, you could schedule your trip for June 1 – July 4 or August 26 – September 10. Visiting during shoulder season will help you avoid the crowds, although there may be fewer bears at pack Creek during the off-season. You can visit Admiralty Island on your own, although you will have to get a permit to do so. The best way to see bears in Juneau on Admiralty Island is to schedule your visit through a guide, who will get all the necessary permits and arrange transportation for you.
Bear Watching Safety Tips
If you want to go bear-watching in Juneau, Alaska, it’s important to know how to stay safe in Bear Country. Here are a few important tips to remember if viewing bears in Juneau is on your bucket list:
- Be aware of your surroundings, even if you are in town. (Bears have been known to frequent Juneau in search of food.)
- Never feed a bear. It’s not only dangerous – it’s illegal in Alaska. Always store food in bear-proof containers away from your campsite.
- Never approach or follow a bear. Always leave the bear an escape route.
- If you encounter a bear, make noise, sing, clap your hands, and stomp your feet.
- A bear standing on its hind legs isn't threatening you; it's trying to identify you, so stand your ground.
- Never try to outrun a bear. A bear’s instinct tells it to chase after anything that runs.
An Awesome Adventure At Pack Creek
Pack Creek is the perfect place to experience bears in Juneau, but it’s also a great place to spot other native Alaskan wildlife. From Sitka black-tailed deer to river otters, minks, martens, and harbor seals – Pack Creek is teeming with wildlife. Lucky visitors can also see orcas and humpback whales offshore, or enjoy watching the bald eagles that nest on the island. Admiralty Island is truly a wildlife enthusiast’s dream come true.