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In Search of the Alaskan Brown Bear

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Alaska is the largest state in the United States. Its surrounded by 3 seas and contains over 3,000 rivers, 3 million lakes, over 201 million square miles of forests, and just as many square miles of tundra. These features in Alaska make it a perfect home for over 1100 animal species. There are more Caribou than people in Alaska.

Alaska is home to more bears than all the States combined. This includes Black Bears, Polar Bears, and Brown Bears; combined that's about 4 bears per square mile.

Well over 90% of Alaska is untouched, making it the last great wilderness in the United States. This vast area of untouched wilderness makes a great hiding place for bears. There are a handful of places in Alaska where you are almost guaranteed to see a Bear in their natural habitat during certain times of the year that don't require a boat or plane to access.

Only 20 percent of Alaska is accessible by roads making boats and planes the most popular means of accessing Alaska's remote areas. For this adventure in search of Grizzly bears, we will be taking a bush plane.

Our day started out early even though it's hard to tell when the sun only sets for 4 hours in June. After our photography gear and safety check, we took off on our hour-twenty-minute flight to an isolated beach in Chinita Bay in the Lake Clark National Park.

Within minutes of landing, we came across two large coastal brown bears clamming 50 yards from us. After about 10 minutes the smaller of the two males became aggressive with the other bear. After a few growls and paw smacks, they took off from 0 to 35 mph in seconds, running in our direction. Our Pilot / Guide Kelly had us stay put in order not to panic the bears anymore. The two bears came within 30 feet of us as they sprinted by heading towards the tree line. We followed their path towards the sedge field on the other side of the tree line.

In the vast sedge field, there were numerous brown bears grazing on grass and taking naps, all waiting for the salmon spawn to start.

Did you know: The term "Brown Bear" is actually a general term when it comes to Alaskan Brown Bears. Brown and grizzly bears are classified as the same species even though there are differences between them. Kodiak bears are classified as distinct subspecies from those on the mainland due to being isolated on the Kodiak Island for over 12,000 years. Kodiak Bears can be 9 feet tall and weigh up to 1600 pounds. The Coastal Brown bears or "Peninsula Grizzly" can be 8 feet tall and up to 1200 pounds compared to the inland Grizzlies which can be 6 feet tall and weigh up to 700 pounds. The reason for being much smaller than their Coastal cousins is that the Inland Grizzlies don't have the large abundance of salmon, clams, and sedge grass to eat. The inland Grizzlies have to hunt more for their food.

Extra Did you know: Due to global warming and the lack of sea ice, Polar bears are wandering further inland for food. Polar bears expanding their range makes the possibility for Polar and Brown bears to mingle more common. When these two species hook up you get a Pizzly.

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