Great Bear Adventures In Alaska

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Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!

Summer Trips To Alaska
Grizzlies & Glaciers Tour

Winter Trips To Alaska
See The Northern Lights

Summer Trips To Alaska
Denali Discovery Adventure

Denali Adventure in Alaska Vacation
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Getting To Know The Brown Bears Of Alaska

Alaska is one of the few places in the world where you can see black, brown, and polar bears. However, the most easily spotted of the three is the Alaska Peninsula brown bear, Ursus arctos gyas, which inhabits the coastal regions of Alaska. Coastal brown bears in Alaska can reach massive proportions, weighing up to 1,650 pounds and standing 9 feet tall on their hind legs! If you want to see bears in their natural habitat, a great bear adventure involves a trip to see these magnificent creatures in their native habitat.

What Is The Difference Between Black And Brown Bears?

While the brown bear closely resembles the black bear, Ursus americanus, there are some major differences. Brown bears are bulkier than black bears and have a prominent shoulder hump, smaller ears, and larger, straighter claws. The brown bear adapted these longer claws and larger hump to help dig for roots and unearth animal burrows. The muscular shoulder hump also helps them dig and aids in the pursuit of caribou and moose. Brown bears are also much larger than black bears, which is a function of their diet. The coastal brown bears of Alaska have a fatty, salmon-rich diet, but will also supplement with razor, butter, and steamer clams as well as sedges, flowers, roots, and berries. This is why these bears are the largest in the world!

Five Fun Facts About Alaska’s Brown Bears

  • Brown bears that live in Alaska’s inland regions are referred to as grizzlies, while those on the coasts are known as brown bears. Grizzlies are a subspecies of brown bear, Ursus arctos horribilis.
  • Bears are solitary animals by nature and their social system is relatively simple in structure. Sows with cubs form family units that exist for two to three years. Other relationships between individual bears are relatively informal and only prevail for a short time.
  • Brown bears possess an amazing sense of smell and can detect scents from miles away, especially if they are downwind. However, their ability to hear and see is about the same as humans. Bears often stand on their hind paws to gain a better view of their surroundings and to catch scents in the wind.
  • Brown bears typically search for food during morning and evening hours. During the day, they like to dig shallow depressions in the ground to nap in. These day beds are usually hidden under dense foliage or geological formations. If you are planning a great bear adventure in Alaska, keep in mind that brown bears will be easier to spot early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  • Alaska’s brown bears can double their weight during the fall when they are foraging and preparing for their winter hibernation. An adult male typically weighs between 300 to 1,000 pounds, but a mature bear can reach 1,500 pounds. Females generally weigh between 200 and 450 pounds.

How Long Can A Brown Bear Live?

In the wild, Alaska brown bears can live for up to 30 years. Occasionally, a bear may live past that. However, a bear that has lived 20 years (in the wild) is viewed as old. The life expectancy of brown bears living in captivity is much higher, due to medical care and a more balanced diet.

The Best Place To See Brown Bears In Alaska

The brown bears of Katmai may be the most famous and widely known of Alaska’s brown bear population. Katmai National Park and Preserve is home to almost 2,200 of these majestic creatures As many bear populations around the world decline, Katmai National Park provides an unaltered habitat for these bears to live in peace. Although Katmai offers visitors incredible viewing opportunities and great bear adventures, the bears are still able to continue their life cycle largely undisturbed.

The best place to see the brown bears of Katmai National Park is at Brooks Camp. This is where brown bears gather to feed on sockeye salmon in the Brooks River. Four wildlife viewing platforms along the river offer safe and spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities, all while mindfully minimizing the impact of tourists on the bears. Visitors can fly in to Katmai from Anchorage or Homer on a day trip to see the bears, or can book a multi-day stay at Brooks Lodge to enjoy an incredible bear-viewing experience!

Other Bear Watching Destinations At Katmai

Many backcountry locations offer visitors the opportunity to see the brown bears of Katmai. For many people the most rewarding backcountry bear-watching locations are where bears feed on sedges, clams, and salmon. In spring and early summer, bears migrate to open meadows to feed on sedges and dig for clams on the nearby mudflats. Later in the summer and fall, bears are more easily and consistently seen along salmon streams. Here are several locations you may want to check out if you visit Katmai for a great bear adventure!

  • Hallo Bay – the best bear viewing at Hallo Bay takes place in June when bears are busy feeding on the clams and vegetation along the shore. Bears can be seen here throughout the summer; however, the numbers dwindle as the season wears on.
  • Geographic Harbor – the best brown bear viewing at Geographic Harbor takes place in August, as salmon make their way through the Harbor during the annual salmon run.
  • Swikshak Lagoon – June is the best time to see brown bears at this location. Early in the season, the bears emerge from their winter hibernation and feed on the vegetation found near the lagoon before gathering along the salmon run routes.
  • Moraine Creek and Funnel Creek – in August, salmon swim through these two creeks, desperate to reach their spawning grounds. Brown bears take advantage of this opportunity to catch the fish and bulk up before the winter months arrive.

The brown bears of Katmai attract thousands of visitors each year, all of whom hope to catch a glimpse of Alaska’s most iconic creature. Whether you choose to go bear viewing at Brooks River or plan a great bear adventure in the backcountry, one thing is certain – bear viewing in Alaska is an adventure of a lifetime!

Download all three Alaska tour brochures for tour dates and pricing.