Black bears are the smallest of Alaska’s three bear species (the other two are grizzlies and polar bears) and have a pointier snout than grizzlies. Black bears aren’t always black, as strange as that may seem. Colors vary from white or creamy to brown or cinnamon. You might even see a rare blue “glacier” bear, found near Yakutat in the Inside Passage and occasionally elsewhere in Southeast Alaska. They spend their summers fattening up on salmon and berries, and can put on hundreds of pounds in the course of a few months. Several designated bear viewing areas around the state offer a safe and fascinating vantage for watching bears as they eat, play and raise their babies.
Where to find them
Black bears live in most of Alaska’s forested regions, from the southernmost tip of the Inside Passage to well north of the Arctic Circle and nearly the entire east-west width of the state. Visitors hiking the trails of Southeast Alaska are advised to make plenty of noise to avoid startling bears. They will usually leave you alone as long as they know you’re coming.
When to come
Black bears hibernate in the winter, so you won’t see them then. Generally, they hibernate in fall and come out in spring. In some of the southernmost areas, they may emerge during a warm winter, whereas in the Far North, they can hibernate for seven to eight months.