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Finding Bears in Alaska

Finding Bears in Alaska

September 07, 2018

Home to all three North American bear species, Alaska is one of the best places in the world to go bear watching.  Brown bears, black bears, and polar bears can all be found in different parts of Alaska.  What are some of the best places to see these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, and when is the best time to go?  Here are four of the best locations for bear watching in Alaska.

Katmai National Park

One of the best places in the world to view bears in the wilderness is Katmai National Park.  Famous for its large brown bear population, Katmai has several locations within the park that are hotspots for bear watching.  Brooks Camp is situated at the mouth of the Brooks River and the shore of Naknek Lake, where salmon can literally be seen jumping out of the water.  Brown bears and grizzlies, a subspecies of brown bears, can easily be seen feeding on their favorite food in the Brooks River.  The park has installed lookout platforms at Brooks Camp to give visitors a close-up view of the bears without disturbing their feeding.  If you are looking for an up close and personal view of brown bears in their habitat, Katmai National Park should be near the top of your list!

Denali National Park

Another prime location for bear watching is Denali National Park.  Denali is home to both brown bears and black bears, although the two species tend to live separately from each other due to competition for food.  Always searching for food, brown and grizzly bears can be seen along rivers where salmon are spawning, or in berry patches.  Black bears in Denali are slightly more difficult to spot, as they keep to forested areas in the park.  Some good spots for viewing black bears in Denali National Park are Kantishna Hills and the south side of the Alaska Mountain Range.

Kodiak Island

Kodiak Island is the the only place in the world to see Kodiak bears, which are a subspecies of the brown bear.  Weighing up to 1,500 pounds, Kodiaks are the second largest bears in the world after polar bears.  Kodiak Island is accessible only by ferry or plane ride, but worth the trip if you want to see these ferocious creatures.  Kodiak Island is a must see for avid bear watchers who want to get a glimpse of the local Kodiak bear.

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
One of the only places in the world where brown bears, black bears, and polar bears can be found, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the place to go if you want to see all three species of bears in one concentrated area.  Polar bears are the most common here, with over 900 polar bears living in the park.  Brown bears and the smaller black bear can also be found around the park,  although their populations are smaller here compared to the rest of Alaska.  While not directly in Fairbanks, Alaska, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is administered from and by the city and serves as a location for the bears to have a habitat.

Best Time to go Bear Watching

Bears hibernate during the winter, so the best time to see bears is during the spring and summer months.  During the spring and early summer, bears tend to migrate to open meadows to forage for food. In general, mid-to late July is prime time for bear watching because of salmon swimming upriver to spawn during this time.  Late summer is when you will more easily see bears at any of Alaska's bear watching locations.