Discover Kodiak Blog

Kodiak Bear Viewing

Written by: Posted on: December 31, 1969 at 7:00PMPosted in: Main Topic

One of the questions I hear most frequently at the Discover Kodiak Visitor Information Center, other than “where are the restrooms?” is “where can I see a bear?”

The Kodiak brown bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) is a sub-species of the brown bear (Ursus arctos.) They arrived on Kodiak almost 12,000 years ago and have since developed into their own unique species. Their diet of plentiful protein rich salmon and wild berries, among other things, allows them to achieve a larger size than other species of brown bears.

To get a really great bear viewing experience is going to cost you some money. This is because Kodiak brown bears, like other wild animals tend to avoid places where humans are.  You could get lucky and see one alongside the road or at the river during a salmon run, but you can’t count on it. That being said, you need to decide if seeing a bear, or several, is something you really want to experience or something you're just willing to take a chance on.  For the best chance of success you need to plan on going out to where the bears are.  Your options include a half day fly-in trip, a remote wilderness lodge or if you’re very adventurous you could rent a remote cabin or plan a multi-day hiking/camping trip.

Half day fly-in trips will get you out where the bears are. It usually takes an hour, more or less, depending on where you go, to get there. Once there you spend several hours on the ground with an experienced guide, viewing and photographing the bears and other wildlife in the area. I’ve never heard even a single complaint from folks when they return from these trips. A few have even booked a second trip the next day.  Just be aware that not all bear viewing flights take you to see Kodiak bears, some of them go to Katmai National Park. If that makes a difference to you be sure to ask about it before you go.

Getting to a lodge will require you to hire a water taxi or charter plane.  Remote wilderness lodges are typically all inclusive.  They provide for all your lodging, meals and activities while you’re there.  Be sure to ask how abundant bears are in that particular area. Most lodges are in the middle of bear country but some of them have a greater amount of bear activity in their immediate area than others.

If you’re the truly adventurous type go on a multi-day hiking/camping trip into the wild.  I strongly suggest that you hire a local guide who is knowledgeable about the area if you’re not familiar with Kodiak’s remote areas. A guide can help provide all the gear you’ll require for this type of adventure and locate the best potential areas to view bears while keeping you safe.

Remote cabins are pretty basic.  You’ll need to hire a charter flight or water taxi to get you there. You need to be a self-sufficient outdoorsman for this option. You’ll be on your own while there.  There are no phones there and you likely won’t see anyone else while there. If the weather doesn’t cooperate you could find yourself spending more time out there than you had planned, so it’s always a good idea to bring enough food for a couple extra days.

Check out the links below for more information on any of the above bear viewing options.  Be safe and have fun.

Bear Viewing

Discover Kodiak: https://www.kodiak.org/

v  Bear Viewing: https://www.kodiak.org/bear_viewing

v  Wilderness Adventures: https://www.kodiak.org/wilderness_adventures

v  Public Use Cabins/Camping: https://www.kodiak.org/camping

v  Guides (see second half of page): https://www.kodiak.org/more_outdoor_activities

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