PRIVATE & SMALL GROUP TOURS TO THE WORLD'S BEST DESTINATIONS
Three Amazing Alaskan Vacations To Choose From!
What Types Of Bears Live In Alaska?
One of the many things that makes Alaska so special is that all three North American bear species live there. Alaska is home to black bears (Ursus americanus), brown bears (Ursus arctos), and polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Like all bears, the bears of Alaska are extremely intelligent animals and highly evolved for life in their unique ecosystems!
Five Fun Facts About Alaska’s Bears
Most of Alaska is considered Bear Country. No matter where you go, it’s common to see bears. From bear sightings in Anchorage to day trips to Admiralty Island on the Kenai Peninsula, bears are everywhere! Here are five fun facts to know about the bears of Alaska before you plan your bear-viewing adventure.
- Black bears are the smallest North American bear. While black is the most common color of their coat, it can range from black to white, with brown, cinnamon, and even bluish shades in between.
- Brown bears and grizzly bears are the same species. The term brown bear is generally used to describe the bears that live along Alaska’s coast. Grizzly bears, on the other hand, live in the forests of Alaska’s interior regions.
- Polar bears are classified as marine mammals because they spend most of their time on or near sea ice and are excellent swimmers.
- Brown bears are the largest of the three species found in Alaska, primarily because of their access to food. These coastal-dwelling bears eat salmon, clams, mussels, and fish – and have even been known to scavenge the occasional beached whale!
- A polar bear’s coat is made up of two unique layers. The shorter coat provides insulation from weather, while the longer coat prevents water from reaching the short coat layer and skin.
Bear Safety In Anchorage, Alaska
Many people wonder if you can see bears near Anchorage. The short answer is yes – Anchorage is Bear Country! Both black and brown bears live within the Anchorage municipality, and visitors to nearby Chugach State Park should always follow best practices for bear safety. However, bear sightings in Anchorage itself are fairly common! Residents (and visitors) should always be on the lookout for bears and know how to keep themselves (and others) safe.
Here are some bear-safety rules to observe while you are in Bear Country:
- Buddy up. It’s always safer to travel in a group!
- Make plenty of noise when walking in brushy areas or along stream banks.
- Leave your headphones or earbuds at home. Staying aware of your surroundings at all times means you will not stumble upon a bear and surprise it.
- Carry bear spray. Make sure it is accessible at all times, and that you know how to use it.
- Never leave food (or fish, if you are fishing) unattended. You don’t want to attract unwanted visitors to your camp, like the bears of Alaska.
- If you are mountain biking in an area where bears can be found, consider slowing down to avoid triggering a bear’s chase response.
- Keep your dogs on a leash at all times!
- Never run from a bear. Stop, talk to the bear, or get closer to friends to let them know you are human. Back slowly away from the bear and allow it plenty of space.
Where To See Bears Near Anchorage
While it is possible to enjoy bear sightings near Anchorage, you’ll see more bears if you get outside the city limits. The Chugach Mountains are a good place to see the bears of Alaska, and most of the trailheads for the recreational areas are a short 20-minute drive from downtown Anchorage. The other option is to take a day trip to one of the many national parks via floatplane for a bear-viewing adventure. One of the most popular options from Anchorage to see bears is Katmai National Park and Preserve.
Spending A Day With The Brooks Falls Bears
Katmai National Park and Preserve is located 290 air miles from Anchorage. It is home to one of the largest brown bear populations in Alaska – more than 2,000 brown bears live within the park. And more than 50 of these bears frequent Brooks Falls each summer for the annual salmon run, making it a prime location for visitors to see the brown bears of Alaska.
Unlike most parks in the United States, Katmai National Park is only accessible by plane or boat. Most visitors from Anchorage fly to Katmai for bear viewing. From Anchorage, you can expect an hour-and-a-half ride to King Salmon, where you will be transferred to a second floatplane for the trip to Brooks Falls. After another scenic 20-minute flight, you will land at Brooks Lodge, where you will get ready for a one-of-a-kind, bear-viewing adventure.
Follow The Fish For A Bear Viewing Adventure
One of the reasons why the bears of Alaska flock to Brook Falls in such large numbers is the annual salmon run. Each summer, the salmon swim upstream in the Brooks River to reach their spawning ground. For the bears, the salmon run is a veritable feast – guaranteeing them easy access to the calories they need to pack away before their winter hibernation. Four viewing platforms have been built along the Brooks River, where visitors can observe the bears without disturbing their activities. Lucky visitors can watch the bears fish, play, and even sometimes fight during bear-viewing season.
If you want to see the bears of Alaska, opting for bear sightings in Anchorage is good – but traveling from Anchorage to Katmai for bear viewing is even better! Whether you pick a day trip or a multi-day bear-viewing excursion, you won’t be disappointed. Seeing Alaska’s magnificent bears in their natural habitat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience!