October 25, 2022


Alaska is full of amazing wildlife, and we are lucky to visit areas of the state that include one of our favorites – the bears!

Black bears (Ursus americanus) are the smallest of the North American bears and the most widely distributed of the three species in Alaska, covering most of the forested areas of the state and ranging from sea level up to alpine areas. It is not uncommon to see black bears from all of the lodges and areas we visit. You might spot one while rafting down the banks of the Kenai River, foraging along the river’s edge for berries and fish. Or, maybe you’ll see one of the resident black bears at Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, across Pedersen Lagoon, searching for a tasty treat.

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) are larger than black bears and also inhabit the areas we visit. Brown bears and grizzly bears are classified as the same species; however, “brown bears” typically refer to those that live in the milder climate of the southern coast of Alaska and have access to coastal food sources like salmon. “Grizzly bears” refer to those brown bears who live in central and interior Alaska. The coastal brown bears are typically larger than the interior grizzlies due to the abundance of coastal food sources. Grizzlies are often spotted along the famed Denali Park Road and in Denali National Park. Brooks Falls boasts the largest population of brown bears in the world, and they can often be viewed fishing along the mile and a half long Brooks River during the peak of the salmon season from viewing platforms.

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are the third species present in Alaska and live in the northern polar region. They are the size of large brown bears and have relatively larger feet than the other two Alaska species to help them swim and navigate areas of thin ice. Polar bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of declining sea ice in the Arctic region.

Because black and brown bears live in many of the regions we visit, any of our Adventures or Lodge Packages are great opportunities to spot these amazing animals. A brown bear-viewing trip to Brooks Falls can be added to any Alaska Wildland trip.

A black bears walks the shoreline in Kenai Fjords National Park.

More information can be found online at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website.