The bears of Alaska


In the Denali National Park you will have the best and easiest spots to see wild bears. Bears are still wild animals so a 100% guarantee siting can’t be promised. However if you have some extra budget to spend, I would suggest going on a day-trip to The Katmai National Park. In the right season you’ll have plenty of bears to watch!

Katmai National Park

From Homer you can book your flights to see the Katmai National Park. This is a national park where in the summer months only 14 people live, mostly park rangers and staff. This is because the park has an enormous bear population, about 2,200 brown bears are estimated to inhabit the park. It’s the best viewing point in the world for brown bears.

Before you can go and explore you need to take a quick trip back to school and follow a ‘how-not-to-die-course‘. It’s not so bad, the rangers just really want you to pay attention and keep save.

Is there a difference between a brown bear and a grizzly bear?

Yes and no! Grizzly bears and brown bears are the same species, but grizzly bears are currently considered to be a separate subspecies. In North America, brown bears are generally considered to be those of the species that have access to coastal food resources like salmon. Grizzly bears live further inland and typically do not have access to marine-derived food resources. When Fat bear week is coming up the employees of Katmai National Park will start asking people to vote, every year the biggest bear is nominated. For 2019 Holly was the fattest brown bear.

Katmai’s brown bears are some of the largest bears in the world. They can grown to be 3 meters in length. Most adult males typically weigh 250-400 kg in mid-summer. By October and November, large adult males can weigh well over 450 kg.

What about the black bear?

The black bear is the smallest of the North American bears. They are also not always black, their color can vary from pitch black to white. Black is the color encountered most frequently across Alaska, but brown or cinnamon-colored black bears can be found in the mainland. Black bears often have brown muzzles and some also have a patch of white hair on their chest.

How many fish can a bear catch and eat?

A lot! On days when salmon are migrating in the river, a large and dominant male bear will sometimes catch and eat more than 35 fish per day.

Polar bears

Last but not least, the polar bear is the world’s largest carnivore and a unique symbol of the Arctic. In the Alaska communities, Kaktovik and Utqiagvik you have the most opportunities for polar bear viewing.

Though polar bears spend most of their lives on the sea ice, many gather during the ice-free period between August and October along the coast near Barter Island where the village of Kaktovik is located. Most visitors come to view bears in September. The village is only accessible by chartered of commerical plane so make sure that you book in advance. The bears generally rest on barrier islands, but also venture near the village to feed on the remains of hunter-harvested bowhead whales.

A guide is needed when you want to go see the polar bears, don’t venture out on your own. Nowadays, bears and viewers gather around the village, increasing the potential for conflict. Make sure your guide is operating legally and has a safety plan you can review.

But most of all have a great experience and don’t disturb the wildlife with your presence. We are the biggest danger to the polar bears. Not the other way around.