Grizzly (Brown) Bear in Denali National Park Alaska

We had thought we’d seen an Alaska teeming with wildlife during our Alaskan cruise. Yes you can cover a lot of distance on a cruise and see much of the inside passage and the animals that tolerate these few ports of call along the way… but you will not be prepared for the vast expanse, magnificent beauty and amazing creatures that inhabit the park of the “The Great One.”

This young Brown Bear (or Grizzly) deftly hauled himself from the open tundra up the few hundred feet of rubble/scree to the side of the road where our bus was parked. He climbed with such speed he was upon us before we or the driver knew it. Although typically we would avoid such close encounters this juvenile got the jump on us and I was able to photograph about a dozen frames of his golden September coat backlit by the setting sun.

These pictures were all shot at 200 mm, 1/250th, f/2.8 or f/3.2

The National Park Service gives the following guidelines for bear encounters:

Denali National Park and Preserve is home to both black bears and grizzly bears. Black bears inhabit the forested areas of the park, while grizzly bears mainly live on the open tundra. Almost all bears seen by visitors along the Park Road are grizzlies. The bears of Denali are wild creatures, free to behave as they wish. If annoyed, these solitary animals can be very dangerous to intruders. For your own protection, and to keep Denali bears healthy and wild, please carefully read and abide by these rules.

If You Encounter a Bear

  • Running may elicit a chase response. Bears can run faster than 30 mph (50 km/hr). You cannot outrun them. If the bear is unaware of you, detour quickly and quietly away. Give the bear plenty of room, allowing it to continue its activities undisturbed. BACK AWAY SLOWLY IF THE BEAR IS AWARE OF YOU! Speak in a low, calm voice while waving your arms slowly above your head. Bears that stand up on their hind legs are not threatening you, but merely trying to identify you.
  • SHOULD A BEAR APPROACH OR CHARGE YOU—DO NOT RUN, DO NOT DROP YOUR PACK! Bears sometimes charge, coming within ten feet of a person before stopping or veering off. Dropping a pack may encourage the bear to approach people for food. STAND STILL until the bear moves away, then slowly back off.
  • IF A GRIZZLY MAKES CONTACT WITH YOU, PLAY DEAD. Curl up into a ball with your knees tucked into your stomach and your hands laced around the back of your neck. Leave your pack on to protect your back. If the attack is prolonged, fight back vigorously.
  • IF A BLACK BEAR MAKES CONTACT WITH YOU, FIGHT BACK.

Report all bear incidents and encounters to a ranger! Park rangers and biologists need this information to document bear behavior for research and management purposes.