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Bear Viewing

A bear and a fish at Big River Lake where it meets Wolverine Creek

From Alaska Public Lands Information Centers brochure - Bear Viewing 2005. For a pdf of the brochure, go to Alaska Public Lands Information Center website .

Polar bears, found in the Arctic regions of Alaska, are the most dangerous.
They fear nothing and anything that moves is a potential meal. There are approximately 4,000-6,000
of these predators ranging the pack-ice and coasts of northern Alaska.Brown bears are
big and powerful predators, but unlike polar bears they do not indiscriminately hunt anything that moves and are as likely to be found eating berries and grass as ground squirrels or moose. There are approximately 35,000-45,000 of these giants roaming throughout Alaska and they are the most sought after by bear viewers.Black bears are the most numerous and the smallest of the bears and are found throughout southeast, southcentral and interior Alaska. Numbering over 50,000, they are the ones you most likely will see in an urban setting. Black bears have even been seen wandering downtown Anchorage in search of food.The point here is that you do not have to travel far to see bears in Alaska and as such, any outdoor activity needs to take bear safety into account. This in mind, it should be noted that bear attacks are very rare in Alaska because most bears (other than polar bears) do not consider humans as food and try to avoid human contact. With proper bear safety precautions, your experience in the outdoors should be a safe and rewarding adventure.Bear Etiquette--Make your presence known; avoid surprises. Sing, talk, wear a bell. Avoid thick brush.--Give bears plenty of room. Watch and photograph from a safe distance.--Be on the watch for bear kills. A bear will defend its food. Detour areas where you see or smell dead animals or fish.--Cook away from your tent. Keep a clean camp. Store your food in airtight containers away from the tentsite.The following areas are known for their concentrations of bears and quality of bear viewing. In addition, many flightseeing and fly-in fishing companies will take you to undeveloped, incidental bear viewing areas.

To connect with Alaska businesses, visit Wildlife Viewing in Things to Do.

McNeil River State Game Sanctuary
What You See: Brown bears fishing for salmon and interacting with each other.
Best Viewing Times: Mid-June (at Mikfik Creek) or July to mid-August (at McNeil River).
Location: Alaska Peninsula, southwest of Anchorage, adjacent to Katmai National Park.
Access: By charter air service from Anchorage or Homer.
Cost: over $300 round-trip from Homer. There is no road access.
Management: Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
Facilities: Primitive camping in designated camping area only. Four mile (6.4 km) round-trip hike to bear-viewing pad. Bring your own tent, sleeping bag and pad, hip boots, cookstove and cooking gear, clothes and food. Good physical condition is essential. Because of the hike and confinement to the viewing pad traveling with children is not recommended. Pets are not allowed.
Reservations: Permits are required and awarded by lottery drawing. Applications are available in January each year. Applications must be postmarked by March 1st and received in the Sanctuary office no later than March 15th and must include a nonrefundable fee. Your name may only appear on one application. Applications must be mailed: they will not be accepted in person or by FAX. Up to three persons may apply as a party. Winners of the lottery pay a user fee. Through the standard application, you can also apply for a standby permit, which allows access to the viewing pad if a regular permit holder decides to stay in camp, but access is not guaranteed. There is a fee for applications for standby permits and for the actual permit. Permits are awarded by lottery.
McNeil River Sanctuary Manager
Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game
333 Raspberry Road
Anchorage, AK 99518-1599
(907) 267-2182

Brooks Falls Katmai National Park
What You See: Brown bears fishing for salmon and interacting with each other.
Best Viewing Times: Peaks in mid-July and again in September (but be prepared for cool, wet weather).
Location: Alaska Peninsula, southwest of Anchorage.
Access: By commercial air service to King Salmon, then charter air service to Brooks Camp.
Cost: over $500 round-trip from Anchorage. There is no road access.
Management: National Park Service.
Facilities: All visitors to Brooks Camp, including lodge guests, day visitors, and campers, must pay a user fee. The National Park campground is about one mile (1.6 km) from Brooks Falls by trail. Backcountry users are not charged a day use fee. Reservations for both camping and day use must be made prior to your visit through the National Parks Reservation Service. From the U.S. or Canada call toll-free 1-800-365-2267; outside those areas call 1-301-722-1257; or reserve through Lodge, with private accommodations and food service, is about 1/2 mile (1 km) from Brooks Falls. Reservations are required for Brooks Lodge.
Contact:Katmailand, Inc1-800-544-0551 or (907) 243-5448
Katmai National Park
PO Box 7
King Salmon, AK 99613-0007
(907) 246-2106

Creek-Stan Price State Wildlife Sanctuary
What You See: Brown bears fishing for salmon and interacting with each other.
Best Viewing Times: July and August
Location: Admiralty Island National Monument/Kootznoowoo Wilderness Area.
Access: By charter boat or floatplane from Juneau.
Cost: Approximately $200 round trip per person. There is no road access.
Management: This U.S. Forest Service area is co-managed with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game.
Facilities: A bear-viewing tower is accessible by trail one mile (1.6 km) from the beach. The main bear-viewing area is on the creek bank about 1/2 mile (1 km) from the beach. This is a designated Wilderness Area. No camping is allowed in the viewing area. There are no overnight accommodations, developed campsites, outhouses, picnic tables or other facilities. Leave No Trace camping is allowed on nearby Windfall Island and Swan Island. You must have your own boat to camp on these islands.
Reservations: Advance reservations for permits are required between July 5 and August 25 when the number of persons allowed each day is limited. Half-price discounts are available for seniors and juniors. Applications, with attached check or money order, may be postmarked no sooner than February 20 (Feb. 10 from overseas). Permits are awarded on a 1st-come, 1st-served basis after March 1 and are for a 3-day maximum stay. From June 1-July 4 and August 26-September 10, permits are still required but do not require advance reservation.

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