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Common Bear Types You’ll See in Alaska

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There are so many things that make Alaska unique among all 50 states, and one of these is its diverse array of wildlife. Specifically, Alaska is one of the only states that is home to all three species of bear that are found in North America: The brown bear, the black bear and the polar bear.

At Pybus Point Lodge, we're proud to offer a wide range of wildlife spotting tours in addition to our high-quality fishing trips, and bears are one of several exciting attractions that are part of these tours. Our trips include a stay on Admiralty Island, with a native Tlingit name that translates to "Fortress of the Bears," and those looking to see these majestic creatures in action will not be disappointed.

For those taking their first trip to Alaska, and also for those who have never seen bears with their own eyes before, how can you identify the different types of bears that might be seen in Alaska -- plus stay safe and alert at all times around them? Here's a basic primer.

Black Bears

The most common bear type found in Alaska, just like in many other parts of North America, is the American black bear. Though the term "black" is used in its name, this species can actually be varying different shades of brown or other colors. Black bears can have a more or less completely black coat, brown fur with patches of white hair, or a combination of these characteristics like a brownish-black fur. Their paws and muzzle are often tan.

On average, adult male American black bears weigh about 300 pounds (136 kg), females weigh around 200 pounds (.9027 metric tons), and their overall length is about 6.5 feet (2 meters). These bears live in a wide variety of habitats, including forests, mountains, grasslands and coastal areas. They have an omnivorous diet that mostly consists of plant foods like berries, nuts and acorns, but they will supplement this with meat from dead animals if the opportunity presents itself.

Black bears are shy around humans and almost never attack them unless they feel threatened or provoked. They are strong for their size -- an adult male black bear can easily run as fast as 40 mph (64 kph), while a female can run at close to 30 mph (.4199 kph).

When encountered by a human, black bears will usually try and flee the person rather than attack. However, they may feel threatened if you approach them too closely or if you make any sudden movements that could startle them.

Brown Bears

Present in every part of Alaska except for certain distinct islands, brown bears are more commonly known as grizzly bears. They're known to mostly feed off plants and berries, but those that live in coastal areas will also eat salmon and other fish, and may be larger as a result.

Brown bears are larger than black bears, with adult male grizzlies weighing around 500 pounds (226 kg), females weighing around 300 pounds (.6667 metric tons), and their overall length coming in at about 8 feet (2.4 meters). They have a very large range that spans from northern Europe to western Asia, all across North America, and down the west coast of South America.

Grizzlies can be told apart from black bears due to both their size and their distinctive shoulder hump. This comes from their strong muscles that are used to dig and turn over rocks. They also have smaller ears than the black bear.

Polar Bears

Mostly found in the northern and western parts of Alaska, and certainly not as common overall as the other types we've gone over here, is the polar bear. This species eats almost exclusively meat, mostly from seals but also from other marine mammals like walruses, whales and fish.

Polar bears are the largest species of bear in Alaska, with adult males weighing around 1,400 pounds (635 kg), females weighing around 800 pounds (363 kg), and their overall length coming in at around 10 feet (3 meters).

Despite their size, polar bears are surprisingly quick runners -- they can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour (40 kph) on land and 5 mph (8 kph) in water. In fact, due to the thickness of their fur, it is easier for them to swim in water than to run on land. Polar bear cubs can also climb trees, though they mostly prefer to live in dens dug into the ground.

For more on the bear types you may see in Alaska, or to learn about any of our guided wildlife tours, fishing tours, lodge accommodations or any of our other services, speak to the staff at Pybus Point Lodge today.

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Discover why people like you can’t stop talking about Pybus Point Lodge. More than 30 years ago, the lodge opened as a simple fishing camp, drawing a devoted following in spite of basic accommodations. With new owners and experienced captains and crew, our corner of Alaska has become an unbeatable fishing and eco-tourism resort.

Andrea Tate

Incredible Experience!

Pybus Point Lodge has some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen. I mean absolutely breathtaking! In addition to the amazing fishing, I hiked to a beautiful secluded lake, soaked in some hot pots, saw several waterfalls, went whale watching, saw bears and all kinds of wildlife and marine life. As a photographer, photographing a wedding under a waterfall will remain a highlight of my life.

Shirley Johnson

Pybus Point Lodge - WOW!

We had the best time! This was our first visit to Pybus, but it definitely will not be our last. The stunning scenery, amazing fishing experience, and the joy of meeting new friends – all outstanding! We did not want to leave!!! If you are thinking about this trip – don’t think any more, just book it. You will not regret it!!!

Sharon Hedding

Trip of a Lifetime!

We had such an amazing time the staff was so wonderful and the lodge was fantastic! capt Joe was so helpful and always doing what ever he could do to make each day special. a special thank you to both Scott and Jody for taking the time to make us feel like family. can't wait to go back next year

Jason Nielsen

Wonderful and Magical Place

We had an amazing business retreat to Pybus Point Lodge.  Everything was top notch... the fishing, the staff, the boat captains, the food, the accommodations, and especially the scenery. I really liked that Pybus took care of everything from start to finish. Chef John is an amazing cook. We had delicious hot meals the entire trip.  The cabins were amazing and very comfortable.  The fishing was awesome and that’s coming from a guy that doesn’t fish that much.

Brandon Foote

We brought home 100lbs of fish!

My wife and I spent a week at Pybus Point this Summer. We had a beautiful, private room overlooking the bay and our own new, ensuite, private bathroom. What an amazing place for couples to get away together. We set our own breakfast time, met our boat captain after, fished the day along, and returned to clean up and enjoy a nice dinner at the restaurant. Next time Alaska is on the trip list, Sherrie and I will go together, and it will be to Pybus Point!

Kent Danjanovich

Fun in Alaska

This was my first trip to Pybus Point. I stayed in one of their new cabins. The accommodations were incredible, the view onto the bay in the mornings was stunning. I loved the staff and the food was really very good. All of this and they have new boats to take you out onto fairly calm waters to fish. The fishing guides were great. Overall a great experience. Definitely going back.


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