Alaska is the best place to see wild bears. A new mine could change that. (2022)

ByDouglas Main

Photographs byAcacia Johnson

Published January 14, 2020

20 min read

Katmai National Park and Preserve, AlaskaOn a sunny day in August, more than two dozen brown bears are gathered at Brooks Falls, in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, to feast on sockeye salmon. Thousands of the fish are delayed or stranded here by the six-foot waterfall, a hurdle they must leap over to return to their native spawning grounds upstream. The bears occasionally growl at each other, competing for the best fishing spots.

A huge male known as Lefty, who has white scars on his flank from past battles with rivals, perches on the upper rim and snags salmon out of mid-air. Every few minutes, Lefty catches one and ambles to a wet rock to devour it, leaving behind guts and bones. After eating about 20, he retreats to a shallow spot in the middle of the river to rest, dazed from gorging himself and unfazed by the current, water dripping from his tousled coat.

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Mere feet away, on a raised wooden platform, dozens of people jockey for the best vantage point. Cameras and phones out, they watch, spellbound, talking over the rumbling waterfall and the shrieks of glaucous gulls fighting for leftovers.

The bears don’t seem to notice.

“These bears have come to agree that humans are pretty much okay,” says Larry Aumiller, who for 30 years ran the camp at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge, to the east, where as many as 80 bears have been seen at once. People involved in bear-watching have discovered that if you’re careful and respectful, the bears view humans as a neutral presence; in turn, the animals present little danger to us, he says. Indeed, no human deaths or serious injuries have happened in the normal course of bear-viewing, adds bear biologist John Hechtel. (At Moraine Creek, to the west of McNeil in Katmai, one large male walked within 10 feet of me to reach a fishing spot, unconcerned by me and my camera-wielding colleagues.)

“To see this many bears in one place is a huge testament to how pristine the entire ecosystem is,” says photographer Acacia Johnson, who’s been visiting these spots for years with her mother Leslie and father Kirk, a former dentist, bear guide, and accomplished bush pilot based in Anchorage, whom I traveled with to see the animals.

On the Alaska Peninsula, a vast area nearly the size of Maine between Bristol Bay and Cook Inlet, brown bears outnumber human residents several fold. About 8,000 to 10,000 brown bears live here, a fifth of North America’s total. These bear populations, the densest in the world, are made possible by the region’s unparalleled abundance and diversity of salmon—hundreds of millions of them, including all five Pacific species, return each year from the ocean to breed in myriad lakes and rivers.

Male coastal brown bears can weigh up to 1,500 pounds at their fish-fattened peak in autumn, making them among the largest in the world. Though they are very similar to grizzlies, they are bigger and also tolerate being in close quarters with each other, thanks to the fish feast, making them star attractions when they congregate to feed at places like Brooks Falls and McNeil River Falls.

These unique conditions have given rise to a robust bear-viewing industry. Dozens of tour operators fly in tens of thousands of visitors to see the animals each year, bringing in $36 million a year to the region, according to a recent study.

At the most popular bear-viewing spots, people know the animals as individuals. Millions around the world watch the Brooks Falls webcam, which the National Park Service operates 24/7 in summer. Many of the bears have been given names, and in October, viewers vote in the Fat Bear Week contest, to determine which bear is best prepared for winter. (Lefty was a finalist this year.)

But the bears, and the sustainable industry that’s grown up around them, face a new threat. The proposed Pebble Mine, which would tap into the world’s largest unexploited deposit of gold and copper, would drastically change this undeveloped region and potentially affect the behavior, and even survival, of its unique brown bears.

The mine proposal from Pebble Partnership, owned by Canadian mining company Northern Dynasty Minerals, is working its way through the federal permitting process. The project has ignited intense backlash in the Bristol Bay region, where a majority of residents oppose it, as polls have repeatedly shown. The bay and its waterways comprise the world’s largest sockeye salmon fishery, which provides jobs for 14,000 people.

Many in the salmon industry are concerned that runoff from the mine and the destruction of salmon streams during mine construction would degrade the fishery. In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency agreed, concluding the mine would present an unacceptable risk to Bristol Bay’s watershed. It would lead to “complete loss” of important fish habitat and irreversible ecosystem degradation, according to the EPA at the time.

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But Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy and President Donald Trump have both enthusiastically endorsed Pebble. After the pair met aboard Air Force One in June, the EPA announced July 30 it would no longer oppose the project. The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees the federal permitting process, is expected to complete a final environmental review and approvals this year. Construction could begin as soon as 2024.

Opponents also fear a catastrophic collapse of one of Pebble’s earthen tailing dams, which would hold hundreds of millions of tons of mining waste. Representatives for Pebble say treated runoff wouldn’t significantly impact the fish and that the dams would be engineered to prevent failure. The mine would employ an average of 850 people during its planned 20-year life.

Anything that would decrease populations of salmon, the base of the food web, could affect the bears. But biologists and guides are particularly concerned about the sprawling transportation corridor that would serve the mine—and edge close to some of the best bear-viewing spots.

The corridor would include a natural gas pipeline and 80 miles of roads that could interfere with bear movement, according to the draft environmental impact statement released by the Army Corps last February. Vehicle collisions could kill bears, and the corridor could create new conflicts between humans and bears. The animals could become more aggressive if they learn to associate humans with food, biologists say; they could also become scared of people and avoid popular bear-viewing spots. Finally, new roads in this undeveloped, remote wilderness could spur future mining, and make it easier to hunt the animals.

Mike Heatwole, Pebble Limited Partnership’s vice president of public affairs, says the mining operation won’t harm bears. “It’s our view that our operation can fully function without degradation to the bear-viewing experience,” he says.

“We’ve spent a lot of time on the bear issue, and I don’t see it as a significant risk from the transportation corridor,” adds Pebble CEO Tom Collier. He says the corridor is far enough away from viewing locations to have a minimal impact.

A route through the wild

In August, bush pilot Kirk Johnson flies Acacia and me over McNeil Falls in a single-engine aircraft. Even at 2,000 feet, we can see dozens of brown bears in the river, feasting on chum salmon.

In the distance, the dramatic peaks of the Aleutian Range ring the coast along Cook Inlet, sloping down to rolling tundra and wetlands. The land is wet and green, with thousands of lakes and streams flowing through meadows and stands of pine and alder.

Thirteen miles to the north of McNeil Falls, Pebble plans to build a port at Amakdedori Beach, on Cook Inlet, to transport concentrated copper and gold.

Waves, wind, and storms pummel this wild coast. A massive driftwood berm created by the tempestuous weather stretches the length of the beach; extreme tides have pushed logs and other detritus miles inland. Bob Shavelson, who runs the environmental organization Cook Inletkeeper, says this is “one of the nastiest places for running a boat.” Both the weather and the shallows of Kamishak Bay, just offshore, make it “one of the most unforgiving navigational settings in the world.”

Regardless, the bay could soon be a docking station for barges and ships at the end of the mine’s transportation corridor—which bear advocates worry could be more disruptive for bears than the mine itself.

The corridor would begin some 55 miles northwest, at the mine site, where copper and gold ore would be turned into concentrate, creating acidic waste that would be stored there in perpetuity. The concentrate would be sealed in containers and trucked to a new port on Lake Iliamna, Alaska’s largest. From there, an ice-breaking ferry would carry the containers across the water, to another port, where they’d be transferred to trucks and driven to the proposed shipping port at Amakdedori Beach. Barges would take the ore to an ocean-going vessel anchored in the bay, and that ship would bring the concentrate to a smelter for further processing.

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On that last stretch of road, the 37 miles from Lake Iliamna to Amakdedori Beach, vehicles would pass every 18 minutes. The route would cut through roadless wilderness and prime bear denning territory, says Dave Crowley, a biologist who oversees the region for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. At its closest, the road would come within less than a mile of McNeil River State Game Refuge, and it would bisect an important wildlife corridor running between Katmai National Park to the south, the McNeil refuge to the southeast, and Lake Clark National Park to the north.

Many of the bears that fish at McNeil in the summer move north of the proposed corridor route to den, Aumiller says. With a road there, bears would be at risk of getting hit by cars and killed, and some deaths are inevitable, says Sean Farley, a biologist with the fish and game department.

James Fueg, another Pebble spokesperson, says the company would limit driving speeds to 35 miles per hour, teach employees to avoid wildlife, report sightings, and stop traffic if necessary to avoid collisions.

The draft environmental impact statement says potential consequences from the road include “loss of habitat due to land conversion, increased mortality from vehicular collisions … and behavioral changes based on avoidance of humans.” Even with this warning, the report has a major shortcoming, says biologist Derek Stonorov, who was stationed at McNeil River Camp from 1990 to 2000 and has studied coastal brown bears for more than 50 years. The assessment only considered impacts to bears within a three-mile radius of the road, which is insufficient considering they travel up to 80 miles a year, he argues.

“It’s a travesty that they would want to put a road in there,” Stonorov says. “It’d be the end of that whole area.”

Unpredictable mammals

At bear-viewing hotspots, attacks are essentially unheard of, says Aumiller. While he has been charged a couple times, he’s never had to use his shotgun or bear spray, which guides carry. “Bears have the reputation of being dangerous and unpredictable, and they are neither of those,” says Chris Day, a long-time bear-viewing guide.

Almost all attacks are caused by humans behaving badly, such as leaving food out or startling bears, says Michael Saxton, a Brooks Camp ranger. “It's very challenging to learn how to operate around large, unpredictable mammals, but somehow the bears seem to have figured it out,” he says.

But this peaceful coexistence could be threatened if people traveling and working along the corridor feed the animals or leave out garbage, which could cause the animals to associate humans with food. On the other hand, non-lethal deterrent techniques, such as projectiles and noise-making devices, commonly used to keep bears away from human-occupied areas, could cause bears to avoid people and bear-viewing spots, Aumiller says.

“Bears that are negatively habituated to the project, or have become food conditioned, may become a danger to the public at bear viewing areas,” the Army Corps’ statement notes. When an animal becomes “food conditioned,” it means they associate humans with treats, which can make them bolder around people and thus more dangerous.

Pebble’s Heatwole says the company has a plan to “ensure this does not become an issue, and our approach to operations will be in line with [best] practice among Alaska industries.”

“We will do things such as fencing off the port and ensuring safe and appropriate handling and disposal of all food and waste,” he says.

Besides harmful associations, the road would create easier access for hunting, both legal and illegal, says state biologist Crowley. “Any time you open up a road in bear country, harvest and illegal killing tends to go up and reduce the bear numbers.”

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For Aumiller, any loss of bears that have come to view humans as a neutral, safe presence would be “beyond tragic.”

“It’s like a betrayal of trust,” he says.

Gem of gems

At Brooks Falls, I meet people who know the bears like old friends. Kyle Mendel, a young man from Houston, loves to watch the webcam with his mom Kathi, who paints the bears in watercolors. He’s a fan of Otis, a bear who’s now sitting in a frothy hollow beneath the falls, stealthily feeling for salmon. Peter Brown, 80, a retired computer programmer from California, has been returning for decades. “This place kind of gets in your blood, and you want to come back,” he says.

Naomi Boak, who does outreach for the park, comes to the Brooks Falls platform daily to answer questions. Originally from New York City, she learned about the bears in 2014 from the webcam.

“When I started watching,” Boak says, “I couldn’t walk, I didn’t have a job, and I had to have my hip replaced.” She got hooked. Earlier this year, a job in public relations opened up at Brooks Camp. Within weeks, she got the job and found herself moving to Alaska.

“I never thought I’d be here,” Boak says. “It’s the most incredible privilege.”

Watching the bears helped cheer Boak up. “I just think they’re fascinating creatures. They’re resilient, they’re smart, they’re playful, they have great stories.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to finalize its environmental impact statement this summer. Soon after, Pebble hopes to receive a Record of Decision from the corps approving a permit under the Clean Water Act, the final major approval the company needs to move forward. Pebble would then go through state and local permitting process, Heatwole says, which takes three to four years.

While I’m speaking with Boak and the Johnsons, a large blonde female bear with large ears, called 128 Grazer, climbs onto the rim of the falls next to Lefty. In spring 2016, Grazer brought a trio of new cubs here. Previously more docile, she began challenging even the largest and most dominant males for access to prime fishing spots. The gambit could’ve killed her; instead, it worked. She successfully raised all three cubs, who finally left her side in 2018.

These kinds of surprises keep people coming back for a lifetime, Kirk says. “This is the gem of gems. It doesn’t get any better than this anywhere on the planet.”

Editor's note : Reporting for this story was assisted by a fellowship with the Institute for Journalism & Natural Resources .

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Acacia Johnson is a photographer and writer from Alaska, focused on human relationships to wilderness. You can find her work on her website at acaciajohnson.com and on Instagram at @acacia.johnson.

A proposed gold and copper mine in Alaska would require a massive transportation corridor that puts a pristine wilderness at risk.

Amakdedori Beach, on the wild western coast of Alaska’s Cook Inlet, is regularly whipped by strong winds, waves, and extreme tides.. “It's one of the most beautiful places in the world,” Kirk says.. But if a Canadian mining company gets its way, Amakdedori Beach will become home to a large port at the terminus of a transportation corridor for the proposed Pebble Mine , where containers full of concentrated copper and gold will be barged to a tanker anchored in Kamishak Bay.. Amakdedori Beach at low tide.. Various parts of the project would require further permits from the state, a process that would take about three to four years.. Having overseen permitting processes before when he worked with the Department of the Interior, Collier says this statement adequately lays out the company’s steps to minimize impacts.. “They did approach us for a port, but our council said no,” says AlexAnna Salmon , president of the village council of Igiugig, population 69, at the western edge of Lake Iliamna, which controls the corporation.. There’s also a risk for accidents along the roads, certain to become icy during much of the year.. Further south, the road between Kokhanok and Amakdedori Beach would carry an average of 35 trucks per day, with one passing every 18 minutes.. This section of road passes many streams—more than 200, according to Rachel James , an organizer with the environmental group Salmon State who walked the route of the proposed corridor last fall between Amakdedori and Kokhanok, taking pictures and notes on her travels .. Back at Amakdedori, Kirk Johnson recalls one sunny day in the 1980s when, as a bear guide, he anchored a boat at the beach.

Alaska is wildlife central; bears, whales, eagles, moose, salmon are all easy to see, from Denali National Park to Kenai Fjords and beyond.

Most tour operators gain access to bears’ prime locations by way of a small plane, though some tours will take you on a boat.. They do so because they know when and where to find the peak locations for the major salmon runs each summer.. 03 Denali’s Park Road offers a solid chance to see Alaska’s big 5: wolves, moose, grizzly bears, Dall sheep, and caribou.. Even though wildlife viewings are never guaranteed on these bus tours , this is prime moose habitat, and you can see them anywhere on this stretch of road.. As you ride over high mountain passes you’ll usually see Dall sheep on the mountainsides—and if you're lucky, you'll spot bears too.. That said, there are times when the animals will get curious and come right up to the bus.. This means you have a great chance of seeing bald eagles when you’re here.. Typically, eagles congregate along rivers where they have easy access to their favorite meal: fish.. Despite all this, you might not see a moose during your stay.. 07 Of course there’s wildlife all over Alaska, but you can never have a guarantee of seeing them—except at one of several wildlife parks , where you can view Alaskan animals up close.. 08 You can often spot these large, white sheep from various roadways throughout Alaska—that is, if you’re looking carefully.. The way these sheep keep safe is to stay up high in the mountains and along cliff sides to avoid predators.. Another possible viewing spot is from the Denali Park Road, if you’re taking a bus tour.

For many travelers, the chance to spot animals is a big reason to visit Alaska. Find out where to see wildlife in Alaska at three easy to reach locations.

If you go to Alaska without going to Denali , you’re missing out on one of the things that makes Alaska so great.. In addition to Denali National Park, there’s another great place to look for moose in Alaska: Anchorage!Believe it or not, this city (that you’re liking flying into anyway) is home to a lot of moose.. Wildlife in Kenai Fjords: Steller sea lions, sea otters, Dall’s porpoise, mountain goats, black bears, humpback whales, orcas, puffins, kittiwakes, cormorants, harbor seals, and if you’re lucky, grey, fin, or minke whales.. For wildlife, I think 8-10x is the sweet spot of giving you a great zoom without compromising on brightness, hand shake, or field of view (especially important for whale watching and other times you’ll be panning to find animals).. Wildlife in Sitka: humpback whales, sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, brown bears, black-tailed deer, eagles, and tens of thousands of seabirds (murrelets, guillemots, cormorants, puffins, auklets, petrels, and more).. That’s why Denali, Kenai Fjords, and Sitka make my list of where to see wildlife in Alaska.

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A brown bear at Fish Creek, Alaska. You're likely to glimpse bears. on extended trips in these regions, whether in national parks or along. the road.. Extended and safe bear viewing, however, is best at locations where bears have become habituated to. human presence, and / or where viewing facilities allow you to watch bears at close range.. Anan wildlife observatory, Anan Creek. An Anan Creek black bear with its catch. Photography at Anan Creek Anan Creek is a relatively easy location for capturing good images of. bears fishing.. Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area, Admiralty Island. A brown bear fishing at Alaska's Pack Creek. There are two main locations for bear watching at Pack Creek, a viewing spit at the mouth of the creek,. overlooking the tidal flats beyond, and an observation tower reached by a short trail back in the forest.. A bear with salmon at Fish Creek, Alaska. The Fish Creek bear viewing observatory, run by the US Forest. Service, is the easiest of the premier bear watching locations to visit.. Bears in the Fish Creek parking lot!. Late in the day, a wolf fishing at the creek. Good images can be made with any camera.

With landscapes that have remained largely undisturbed from their original states, Alaska is chock full of rare wildlife. There are the legendary grizzly bears, seas teeming with fish, and some of the most distinctive ungulates (that would be hoofed mammals) in the world. But beneath the surface of these world-famous species lie quirky facts and […]

Northwestern Alaska hosts one of the largest populations of caribou in the world.. Other females ditch their antlers during the long icy winter.. Alaska is bear country, with a robust population of black bears, grizzlies, Kodiak bears, and polar bears.. Should you be lucky enough to view a grizzly bear on your voyage, keep these mind-boggling factoids in mind: There are over 30,000 grizzly bears in Alaska, which gives the largest state more grizzlies than the rest of the country combined.. Once there, they mate, raise their young, and basically kick back for a tropical vacation before starting the whole migration over again.. Most mushing teams are comprised of eight dogs, and once they’ve found their “locking stride,” they can run for miles upon miles.. The United States’ signature bird is so common in Alaska that a small town called Haines has been hosting an Annual Eagle Festival for 19 years.. That means that the eagle is taller than you.. High up in the mountains and in the Arctic regions, the Dall sheep is king.. Ovibos moschatus weigh between 400-800 pounds and with their long, tufted fur, Eskimos termed them “the animal with skin like a beard.” If you catch a glimpse of one, you will likely agree that they look a bit wise and woolly.. The Alaska Moose is a large subspecies of moose that can weigh over 1300 pounds.. This isn’t due to moose having a more aggressive nature, but simply the fact that they outnumber bears.. What should you do if you meet a particularly testy representative of Alaska’s state mammal?. That’s where Alaska comes in.. Each year, the Arctic tern must fly a truly incredible 12,000 miles between its summer and winter feeding grounds.

The Board of Game is considering an additional brown bear season on the Alaska Peninsula despite a declining bear population. Why? As a favor to hunting guides. Comment today.

During that meeting, the Board of Game generated the following proposal:. If adopted, proposal 1 would open a special spring 2021 season for certain registration brown bear hunts in the Alaska Peninsula, which is designated as Game Management Unit 9.. Hunting of brown bears in GMU 9 occurs in the spring and fall, but in alternating years (spring hunting season in even years; fall hunting season in odd years).. This alternating cycle of hunting seasons has been in effect in GMU 9 since 1976 because having two hunting seasons each year was resulting in overharvest and wasn’t sustainable for the bear population.. Just two years ago at the Board of Game meeting, during a discussion by the Board of whether or not to add a resident-only early season hunt in GMU 9, Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s (ADF&G) bear biologist for GMU 9 said the brown bear population could not sustain an additional level of harvest, even the comparatively low level of harvest by residents (which is only about 25% of the total annual harvest of brown bears in GMU 9).. The Board was established to make regulatory decisions based on sound science for the sustainability of wildlife for all user groups.. The proposal number.

Check out our wildlife guide and browse these fascinating facts about brown bears in Alaska!

As adult males range widely during the mating season in search of sows in estrus, their home ranges are substantially larger than those of females.. Due to their individuality, it is difficult to give advice on how to react upon encountering a bear.. Hence bears, dominant boars in particular, travel far across their home ranges during the breeding season.. Occasionally, a sow may even give birth to four young.. Smaller individuals give way to dominant boars, which may mate with four or five, if not more, different females in the course of the breeding season.. The high concentration of bears along salmon streams also results in females mating with several males, a situation that primarily arises when a subordinate boar is chased off by a more dominant male.. They are raised on the rich milk produced by their mother, which contains up to 40 percent fat in some bear species.. As a rule, the cubs remain with their mother for two and a half years.. Almost one-third of cubs do not live to see a second summer.. Under optimal conditions, such as those found on the Alaska Peninsula or in the Kodiak Archipelago, brown bears may weigh nearly 1,700 pounds!. Due to their mass and their diet, bears differ greatly from typical carnivores such as cats and dogs.. Pregnant females and sows with cubs are first, followed by sub-adults, and then adult females without progeny; the last to bed themselves to the long sleep are the dominant boars.. Alaska has a vital responsibility to this bear, housing 98 percent of America’s grizzly population, and more than 70 percent of the population in North America as a whole.. Recognize that a bear will eat any food that it discovers, and do your utmost to ensure that no bear obtains food from you or in any way associated nearby food with you.

Attacks à la Revenant are a statistical blip. An Alaska expert outlines the dos and don'ts of sharing wilderness with the state's 133,000 bears

The state’s subcontinental sprawl is home to an estimated 100,000 or more black bears ( Ursus americanus ); 30,000 browns, or grizzlies (interchangeable names for the same species, Ursus arctos ); and on the northern coasts and sea ice, perhaps 3,000 polar bears ( Ursus maritimus ).. I came to Alaska 37 years ago, hoping to live around bears, and I got my wish.. Only a few days before we saw the male grizzly at our new place north of Haines, I drove down our Juneau suburban cul-de-sac in a soon-to-be-loaded rental van, right past a big black bear sauntering down the road—one Sherrie had met just minutes earlier at the edge of our driveway.. I saw my first Alaska bear in 1979 and can recall times in especially bear-dense areas where the daily count was higher than ten, and once 40 in just a few hours.. I’ve inadvertently found myself within touching range of wild bears of all three species, been charged four times, and been subjected to all manner of ursine threats and displays, including woofing, jaw clacking, brush thrashing, roaring, and purposeful, head-low advances.. David Shaffer, Smithsonian.com Photo Contest Archives Most of my up-close brushes with bears have been directly related to my outdoor habits—lots of quiet solo walking along salmon streams, fishing rod in hand, and sitting in places crisscrossed by bear trails as I watched and photographed bears going about their business.. They’re responsible not only for roughly 80 percent of all Alaska attacks but also for the majority of serious injuries and deaths—even though they’re outnumbered by black bears at least three to one statewide.. The single most powerful thing you can do to be safe is to keep your eyes and ears wide open and make plenty of commotion as you’re traveling through bear country.. Being close to a bear doesn’t mean an attack is imminent.. If you’re being severely mauled by either a black bear or grizzly, and the attack seems to be escalating, fight back with all you have.. If you want to watch bears, a visit to a designated viewing site with a high bear density is strongly recommended.. Anan Wildlife Observatory : From a platform overlooking a rushing creek, watch black bears and a few grizzlies feed on abundant salmon in late July through August, often at close range.

Tongass National Park is one of the world’s great, unspoiled forests – and it’s home to more brown bears than anywhere else on earth

To our left runs a river, at our backs is a vast belt of ancient forest and dark mountains that hide the densest concentration of brown bears on earth.. Photograph: AlamyAs wildlife-watching locations go, Tongass National Forest in the panhandle of southeast Alaska is hard to beat.. It is also a brown bear-watching hotspot, although glossy black bear, wolf, otter, beaver and salmon swell the rivers and fjords, too.. There are also mountain goats, flying squirrels, river otters, humpback whales, orcas and bald eagles.. Several local guides have made off-the-beaten-track brown bear viewing their speciality – Robertson’s employer, Bear Creek Outfitters , among them.. Many tourists arrive and leave on a cruise ship the same day but, staying overnight, the town empties out and we don’t see a single tour group for the remainder of our stay.. En route to Ketchikan , 300 miles to the south, we can see below us vast swathes of rainforest and subarctic plateau.. From Ketchikan, a 25-minute seaplane flight takes us out over Misty Fjords National Park, part of the Tongass wilderness and an expanse of extraordinary fjords some 70m years in the making.. Millions of years in the making: Misty Fjords National Monument, near Ketchikan, southeast Alaska.

Where and how to see bears in Alaska! From secret spots to Juneau bear viewing tours that can almost guarantee sightings, here's your list.

From Skagway to Ketchikan to Juneau bear viewing tours, we have you covered.. Please remember, do not approach or interact with any bear you spot along your journey!By the way, since you seem to be a wildlife enthusiast, click here to check out all of our Wildlife Viewing excursions, including some of our Alaska bear adventures!. Skagway’s Wildlife Safari and Bear Viewing tour is a perfect tour to see Brown bears doing what bears in Alaska are known to do: eating salmon!. This thrilling excursion visits a remote Glacier via ATV’s, with plenty of opportunities for wildlife sightings along the way.. I personally love the escape from the crowds that the ATV gives you, and wha a better way to see bears in Alaska than away the wilderness!. You will board a float plane for the 25-minute flight to Admiralty Island for Juneau bear viewing at Pack Creek, where you can view Alaskan brown bears in their natural habitat.. (Prime Juneau bear viewing time is July through August).. After your Juneau bear viewing experience, our last stop on the journey is Ketchikan!. Known as the “Salmon Capital of the World,” Ketchikan is a prime lunch spot for bears in Alaska, making it the perfect place for more Alaska bear adventures.

Alaska is home to some of the nation's most incredible wildlife. Here's how to see whales, bears, eagles, wolves, walruses, and more in Alaska.

Wildlife viewing is a primary draw for the 2 million tourists that make their way to Alaska in a normal year.. “Bears habituate to people and they are highly motivated to go to streams where the salmon are running,” explains Riley Woodford , information officer for Alaska’s Department of Fish and Game.. If bears are the #1 wildlife draw in Alaska, whales are 1B.. The sprawling ‘city’ of Sitka (pop.. Josh Miller Photography/Getty Images. “Seeing a bald eagle in Alaska is pretty much like seeing a seagull anywhere else,” explains Woodford.. Along the southwestern edge of the Kenai Peninsula, the town of Homer is another bald eagle hotspot.. “There’s around 300 miles of road with exceptional wildlife viewing and 24 hours of daylight,” he says.. “Sometimes you’ll see them in Denali National Park — packs of grey wolves are present there.. This ’town’ of just ten residents is well north of the Arctic Circle.. In Alaska, it’s just another day in the bush.

Alaska is the USA’s largest and least populated state - a land of snow-capped mountains, towering glaciers, sparkling fjords, endless forests and…

Baranof Island lies in the northern Alexander Archipelago in the Alaska Panhandle, with a shoreline of around 1,000 kilometres.. This coastal wilderness near Juneau has stunning vistas of glaciers, mountains, islands and deep fjords.. Each summer orca, humpback and minke whales feed in the channels, and it is not unusual to see moose and bears swimming across the picturesque bay.. The largest island in the Gulf of Alaska is rich in wildlife.. Birdwatching, whale watching, wilderness adventures, panoramic mountain ranges, majestic glacier and over 200 kiometres of trails can be found within easy reach of the city.. Alaska’s largest inland city is the gateway to Denali National Park.

Alaska is teeming with wilderness which makes it an ideal habitat for some truly majestic animals.

These little monsters are mean and can be identified by their thick dark fur covering their bodies.. These cute little buggers can be found in the Alaskan mountainsides.. They prefer areas with alpine ridges, steep slopes, and meadows for grazing so they have a steady source of food as well as an easy way to escape a predator.. These sheep are no small beasts as they can weigh up to 300-lbs, but watch out for Golden Eagles who might take them down for a snack .. Black bears can usually be found in the forests across the state, but brown bears seem to hug the southern coast due to their need for salmon.. These animals can be found in the northern half of Alaska, so if you plan on heading that way you might be lucky enough to spot these large beasts.. A lynx is a cat, but it is not cute and cuddly like the one you have it home.. They can be found in the northern part of Alaska, or basically wherever the hare population has been recorded to be that year.. It would be a lucky shot to catch one of these foxes in action, but actually seeing one is unlikely.

A brown bear loped across rolling green tundra as Charles Weimer set down a light, single-engine helicopter on a remote hilltop.

The Pebble Mine site lies 200 miles southwest of Anchorage.. "It's in salmon.". The company plans to prevent contamination by treating as much as 13,000 gallons of discharge a minute on average from ore processing, tailings seepage and pit drainage, funneling it into the Koktuli River.. AlexAnna Salmon, the village tribal president, opposes Pebble Mine for its risks to fish and the development it would bring.. Pebble has yet to provide an economic feasibility analysis, one of several documents absent from the Army Corps of Engineers' draft environmental impact statement, which received more than 100,000 public comments by a July 1 deadline.. "There's times we don't talk to each other, maybe even for years," Tim Anelon said.

After seeing some of these jaw-dropping photos, you’ll be booking your next vacation to America's Final Frontier.

The Denali region of central Alaska contains a national park and preserve, and North America’s tallest peak.. The area around the peak is the Denali National Park & Preserve: over six million acres of raw, natural wilderness.. Getting to Glacier Bay and its national park and preserve can be a bit tricky, as it is only accessible by water or by land.. Though located on the Kenai Peninsula, with part within the boundary of the Kenai Fjords National Park, the Harding Ice Field is unique enough to merit its own mention.. Kenai Fjords National Park | ○ National Park Service/WikiCommons. The area is bordered by the Cook Inlet on its west, the Gulf of Alaska on its south and southeast, and Turnagain Arm to the north.. The Kenai Fjords National Park covers a large portion of the peninsula, with protected lands and miles of terrain, some of which is accessible to visitors, and some of which has yet to be explored.. St. Lawrence Island is relatively large, ranking as the sixth largest island in the US: a staggering 85 times larger than New York’s Manhattan Island.. With the stunning mountain and ocean scenery that Alaska is famous for, and quiet, idyllic small towns, St. Lawrence Island seems to have remained a living picture of the past.. The scene is a blend of Alaska’s famous rugged wilderness, and a unique natural water feature that can only be found in a few places in the world.. The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes is located inside the Katmai National Park, and was once named the Ukak River Valley.

(This piece is posted with permission from ROL Cruises.) Everything you need to know about staying safe in the wild.

The jagged landscape and vast space in Alaska’s national parks make life difficult for rescue teams and volunteers, so it’s important to learn the basics of survival until you either find help or help finds you.. If you find yourself lost in Alaska , be it in the Wrangell Mountains or the dense forests at the south of Glacier Bay, there are four main things you need to focus on: shelter, water, fire and food.. Andy Moderow, state director of the Alaska Wilderness League , an organisation fighting to protect Alaska’s landscape and wildlife, said: “Alaska is a state full of wild public lands, and it’s easy to get away from people and out into wilderness.. As shelter is the first priority, Tim recommends utilising whatever you have with you and looking to the environment for building materials: “You can use your space blanket from your survival kit to stay warm, or turn the trash bag into a sleeping bag by filling it with leaves, but you’ll probably need more shelter than that.”. According to Carl Donohue of Expeditions Alaska , there are many risks associated with hiking across the state, including rapidly changing weather and extreme temperatures, as well as crossing rivers.. With a wealth of knowledge about Alaska and the biggest dangers posed to those heading out into the wild, Carl shared some sound advice: “Wilderness adventure in Alaska requires the visitor to understand how wilderness travel here differs from that in most other places.. While quick-changing weather poses a huge risk, Carl advises adventurers to remain vigilant when crossing water: “The feature of the Alaskan wilderness that concerns me the most when I’m guiding is rivers.. Understanding Alaska’s freak weather is also crucial to surviving in the wild, according to Carl: “We often get fooled into considering averages, such as average temperatures, and plan accordingly.. Dr Mark Harper Bsc MBBS FRCA PhD, expert advisor and contributor to the Outdoor Swimming Society warned of the risks of cold water immersion: “While there are very small risks of heart problems and hypothermia, the main immediate risk is of water aspiration.

Vivacious seas, steep mountain terrain, sprawling back-country, and unpredictable wildlife: here are the most dangerous places in Alaska.

Many lives have been lost on this mountain yet every year more people sign up to attempt a summit.. Every year on the fourth of July, nearly 1000 people travel to the town of Seward on the Kenai Peninsula to compete in the now infamous Mount Marathon foot race.. There are far too many remote places throughout Alaska to name one specific place, but snow-machine accidents happen in Alaska at a per capita rate at least five times higher than any other state.. This is another one of those very dangerous, deadly locations that doesn’t exactly have just one specific area of danger.. Address: Denali, Alaska, USA. Address: Mount Marathon Trail, Mt Marathon Trail, Seward, AK 99664, USA. Avalanches are another serious threat of hiking Denali.. Address: Denali, Alaska, USA. Address: Mount Marathon Trail, Mt Marathon Trail, Seward, AK 99664, USA

We’re now deep into summer, which in Anchorage means that conflicts between the city’s human residents and our wild neighbors are at a peak. Most of the problems involve black and grizzly bears, but moose have also made headlines in the local daily newspaper (“Woman stomped by moose at Kincaid Park,” the Anchorage Daily News … Continue reading Living with Bears: A Continuing Challenge in Alaska’s Urban Center →

Most of the problems involve black and grizzly bears, but moose have also made headlines in the local daily newspaper (“Woman stomped by moose at Kincaid Park,” the Anchorage Daily News reported on June 11 ) as it happened, my new puppy and I were charged by a cow moose that same week while walking Kincaid’s trails, but avoided getting trampled after the surprise encounter).. Anchorage is the largest U.S. city to have brown bears walk its trails and streets and fish for salmon in its creeks.. Since then things have gotten even worse: from 2006 through 2012, 100 black bears were killed as DLPs, or more than 14 per year.. There are many possible reasons for these increased kills.. Photo: Alaska Department of Fish and GameThen the area wildlife manager, Sinnott pointed out that brown bears frequently use “Rover’s Run,” the woodland trail where the attack took place, while traveling to and from a nearby creek where they fish for salmon.. Photo: Wayne Hall“There are numerous black bears and at least one brown bear that’s working Muldoon,” Coltrane told reporter Casey Grove, adding it’s unfortunate that garbage continues to be such a common problem in Anchorage.. Are we willing to make compromises, changes in our lives and behavior, to allow wild nature a place in our urban lives?

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