Grizzly bears feeding on salmon in Alaska

Why Do Grizzly Bears Feed on Salmon?

The Best National Parks in Alaska to see Grizzly Bears Feed on Salmon

bears catching salmon alaskaWould you consider watching bears catch and eat salmon your dream vacation? If so, then you may want to come to Alaska to see bears eating salmon — and more!

There are certain sights in Alaska’s vast and wonderous nature that are iconic; whales breaching the surface of the oceans, eagles soaring over mountains, and grizzly bears feeding on salmon. It may seem too good to be true that all of these sites can be seen in a single state — but Alaska has all of these wonders (and more!).

Why do grizzly bears feed on salmon?

Grizzly bears are a subspecies of North American Brown bears. They are omnivores; they’ll eat anything from berries to birds, and yes, salmon.¹ From June – September each year, the salmon swim upriver to get to their spawning sites. This is when grizzly bears gather to feed on them. This event is known as the salmon run and it offers incredible opportunities to see this spectacle for yourself, up close. Towards the beginning of the season, you may even see mother bears with their cubs, but if you travel towards the end of the season then grizzlies start preparing for hibernation, so you might miss them. But you might catch beautiful Fall Colors and less crowds.

grizzlies vacation trip
Bear season and the salmon run in Alaska lines up with the summer tourist season. If incredible activities like hiking, whale watching, kayaking, and deep-sea fishing sounds like your kind of summer, then visiting Alaska from June – September is the best time for you.

Where can I see grizzly bears feed on salmon in Alaska?

To witness grizzly bears feeding on salmon in Alaska, head to places like Katmai National Park and Preserve, particularly Brooks Falls, where grizzlies gather during the summer salmon run. Another option is Admiralty Island National Monument, known as the “Fortress of the Bears,” where brown bears roam the forests and streams in search of salmon. These locations offer incredible opportunities to observe these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, engaging in their annual feeding frenzy.

For a truly immersive experience with grizzly bears in Alaska, consider joining a guided wildlife tour led by knowledgeable experts. These tours can provide valuable insights into bear behavior, ecology, and conservation efforts while ensuring a safe and respectful viewing experience for both visitors and the bears. Additionally, participating in a wildlife tour offers the chance to learn more about the unique ecosystems and landscapes that support these magnificent animals, adding depth to your wildlife-watching adventure in the Last Frontier.

How many salmon do bears eat per day?

The number of salmon a bear eats in a day in Alaska can vary significantly depending on factors like the bear’s size, age, and the availability of salmon. On average, an adult bear can consume between 10 to 20 salmon per day during peak salmon runs. In some cases, particularly during the height of the salmon run, bears might catch and eat even more. Bears typically focus on the most nutrient-rich parts of the fish, such as the skin, brain, and eggs, which provide the highest energy content.

During the peak salmon runs, the feeding behavior of bears becomes a spectacle for onlookers. They display remarkable fishing skills, often standing at the edge of rushing rivers, ready to pounce on their unsuspecting prey. The sight of a massive bear deftly catching a salmon in its powerful jaws is a reminder of the raw power and instinctual prowess of these magnificent creatures. As the bears feast on their bounty, the surrounding ecosystem benefits from the nutrients they redistribute through their scat, fertilizing the soil and supporting the growth of plants along the riverbanks. It’s a harmonious cycle of life and sustenance in the untamed wilderness of Alaska.

What is the best time of the day to watch bears eat salmon?

The best time of day to watch bears eat salmon is typically early morning or late afternoon. During these times, bears are most active in their fishing activities. Early mornings offer cooler temperatures and fewer disturbances, making it an ideal time for bears to hunt for salmon. Similarly, late afternoons provide a window of activity before bears retreat for the evening. These periods also tend to have better lighting for viewing and photography.

Capture the Moment: Top Tips for Photographing Bears Catching Salmon in Alaska

Photographing bears eating salmon can be an exhilarating experience, but it requires careful preparation and attention to detail. Safety should always come first: maintain a safe distance from the bears, use a telephoto lens, and consider joining a guided tour with experienced guides. Equip yourself with the right gear, such as a telephoto lens of at least 300mm, a fast shutter speed (1/1000s or faster) to freeze the action, and a tripod or monopod to stabilize your camera. The best times for optimal lighting are during the golden hours of early morning and late afternoon, or on overcast days with soft, diffused light.

Understanding bear behavior is crucial for capturing dynamic shots; spend time observing them to anticipate key moments, like catching salmon or interacting with each other. Compose your shots thoughtfully by using the rule of thirds, including the environment for context, and focusing sharply on the bear’s eyes. Patience is key, as wildlife photography often involves waiting for the perfect moment while staying quiet and minimizing movement to avoid startling the bears. Lastly, be prepared for variable weather conditions by using waterproof camera covers and lens hoods to protect your equipment.

Katmai National Park in King Salmon, Alaska

Katmai National Park is home to Brooks Lodge, the world famous site for viewing grizzly bears feeding on salmon. Guests at the lodge can walk to a viewing area where they see bears playing in the waterfall, and catching salmon.

On the Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure tour with Gondwana Ecotours, our travelers board a chartered flight to Katmai National Park and Brooks Falls for a day of bear viewing. The views from the plane are stunning, but the views of the bears are even better! We spend several hours watching the bears feed on salmon, play and mingle at Brooks Falls.

As you can imagine, this is a very popular experience! Brooks Lodge and Falls is never truly exclusive, there are always other guests and campers around, which is why we take our visitors to another spot as well. Following an exhilarating day at Brooks Falls, immersed in the natural habitat of grizzlies, our adventurers are in for an exclusive experience away from the hustle and bustle. Our expedition delves further into the untamed expanses of Katmai National Park, guiding guests off the conventional routes to uncover hidden treasures for a more intimate bear-watching encounter. Here, amid the serenity of nature, visitors can observe these majestic creatures in their element, uninterrupted by human interference. This secluded rendezvous fosters a profound connection with wildlife and a heightened admiration for the diverse ecosystem of Katmai.

Lake Clark National Park in Port Alsworth, Alaska

alaskan-brown-bear-ursus-horribilis-in-lake-clarBrooks Falls has lots of bears, but this makes it very popular with tourists. Lake Clark National Park is less well-known, but equally as loved for bear viewing. Lake Clark has less crowds and is a bit wilder than Brooks Lodge. Chinitna Bay is one of the most popular bear viewing spots in Lake Clark National Park. Rather than seeing grizzly bears feeding on salmon, you’ll see them digging for clams along the shore. It’s a different experience than Brooks Falls, and just as special.

It’s a tough decision, right? Well, fortunately, if you travel on the Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure tour with Gondwana Ecotours on our we visit both locations. The day after visiting Brooks Falls, we fly to a remote beach in either Katmai or Lake Clark National Park (depending upon weather and bear activity) for a more remote, quieter bear viewing experience, with hardly anyone else around for many miles.

Online Bear Camera Viewing: Brooks Falls Bear Cam (Brooks Falls, Alaska)

If you can’t wait until you get there in person, the Brooks Falls Live Bear Cam could give you the bear-fix you’re craving. The Bear Cam has been running 24/7 each summer season since June 2012. It’s fixed in the perfect spot to see grizzly bears feeding on salmon because the waterfalls slow the salmon down and the hungry bears seize the opportunity. During the off-season, watching the highlights from the previous year’s footage is a great way to see some bears.

The Brooks Falls Bear Cam is an amazing way to get a taste for what you would see on a bear tour to Alaska, but it’s no substitute for the real thing! Gondwana Ecotours Glaciers & Grizzlies Adventure tour is an incredible way to see grizzly bears feeding on salmon, as well as seeing the world-famous Exit Glacier, taking a boat ride through the Kenai Fjords National Park and more. Find out how to book your adventure here!

Alaska adventure tours offer thrill-seekers an unparalleled opportunity to explore the Last Frontier’s untamed wilderness and rugged landscapes. From exhilarating glacier hikes to adrenaline-pumping wildlife safaris, these tours cater to every adventurer’s passion and curiosity. Immerse yourself in the heart of Alaska’s natural wonders, guided by experienced professionals who ensure an unforgettable and safe experience for all.

¹”Photo Arc: Grizzly Bear” National Geographic.

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