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by Klondike Kid
AOJ Wildlife

Bear Viewing on the Kenai

Brown Bear Brown bear and black bear populations are stable or increasing on the Kenai Peninsula and there are actually a great number of them roaming around. Unfortunately for the wildlife enthusiast the Peninsula's wilderness conditions and lack of human development affords bears many places to live their lives without any interaction among humans. They are one of the most prized animals to spot even among the residents here.

Most bears on the Peninsula are in the high country during the summer months and are usually found above timberline on the mountain sides until late summer when some will venture down to area streams to feed on spawning salmon. Stopping along the Seward Highway when driving through the mountains and glassing the slopes of the mountains in the willow and alder thickets can produce some degree of success although at long range.

Hiking along the Resurrection Trail system provides opportunities to view bears on the mountain sides across the valley. Again this is long range viewing but a good pair of binoculars will bring these animals close enough to enjoy as you watch them search the hillside for food. And there is always the chance of running into one along the trail system.

Brown Bear Brown bears are seen each year along the Russian River during the salmon run but they tend to be infrequent visitors providing just chance viewing in the lower section of the river where the campground exists. The best bet for viewing bears in the Russian River drainage is to hike up the Russian Lakes Trail during the summer spawning runs of sockeye salmon. The trail follows along the river and tens of thousands of sockeye navigate this stream each summer from mid-June through late August to spawn in the Russian Lakes. Bears will frequent the streambanks to dip an easy meal from this relatively shallow river. As with any wild animal, extreme caution should be used when viewing and photographing these large and powerful animals. See Tips When Entering Bear Country for information related to traveling in bear country and how to conduct yourself.

Despite the difficulties in viewing bears on the Kenai Peninsula, there are other opportunities to see brown and black bears in their natural environment. Many bush plane air charters are available on the Peninsula that provide fly-in day trips to many remote locations on the west side of Cook Inlet where bears are seen feeding on salmon and lounging around. These trips can be either flight-seeing (remaining in the plane) or all day trips where viewing and photographing bears is very up close and personal.

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