Alaska Bear Viewing, Tours, Brown and Grizzly Bears, National Parks Alaska

Alaska Bear Viewing: What to Expect

The chance to see bears in their natural habitat is one of the major reasons a lot of people visit Alaska. Alaska bear viewing is big business for both tourists and Alaskan residents, and an experience not to be missed.

Alaska ’s bear viewing is a once in a lifetime experience, and worth splashing out for. Hundreds of tour companies are dedicated to Alaska bear viewing and you will certainly find something to suit your timetable, budget and demands.

Transport options available:

Fly in tours are extremely popular as some viewing locations aren’t accessible by highways connecting Fairbanks, Homer and Anchorage. Tours last from one hour to an entire day. You have the chance to take in wildlife and Alaska’s majestic scenery from the air as well as up close encounters with the bears when you land.

Boat tours offer Alaska bear viewing trips a couple of hours to several days in length. Tour companies will take you from bay to bay, with the chance to see bears and other wildlife close up from the water and land.

Alaska is home to 98 per cent of brown bears in the United States, and they grow biggest on the salmon runs at Kodiak and Admiralty Islands. These bears are the biggest land carnivores in the world, and grow 30 per cent bigger than their inland cousins, the grizzlies.

Different bear types

The difference between brown and grizzly bears is simply geographical. They are the same species, ursus arctos, but bears close to the coast are called brown bears, while those living inland and in the north of the state are grizzlies.

Brown bears can be found in coastal Katmai areas as well as the Alaskan southwest. They can live up to the age of 35 and can weigh up to 1100 pounds. During the summer some brown bears will eat up to 90 pounds of salmon a day to prepare for hibernation, with their hunting in rivers making for some great photo opportunities. Black bears live throughout Alaska. They’re smaller than their brown cousins, weighing an average of 300 pounds.

Polar bears are defined as a marine mammal because of the time they spend in the water. They are the largest and most aggressive Alaskan bear, and can weigh up to 1300 pounds. The best time to see polar bears is the whaling seasons in the spring and fall, when carcasses may attract them to the shore.

Katmai National Park, Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary all offer visitors astounding close up views of bears feeding on salmon as they fight their way upstream.

Denali National Park offers visitors a reliable chance of seeing bears. Other parks around the state have more bears and in higher concentration, but as Denali is accessible by shuttle and tour bus it remains a popular bear watching location. It doesn’t offer the intimacy of other bear viewing areas, most of which require an expensive plane or ferry trip to reach.