Cornforth Images

Brown Bear

The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is an omnivorous mammal of the family Ursidae, distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It weighs between 220-1,500lbs (100-680kg) and its larger populations such as the Kodiak bear match the Polar bear as the largest land carnivores. Its principal range countries are Russia, the United States (especially Alaska), Canada, and Finland where it is the national animal. Brown bears were once native to Asia, the Atlas Mountains in Africa, Europe and North America, but are now extinct in some areas and their populations have greatly decreased in other areas. There are about 200,000 brown bears in the world. In Arctic areas, the potential habitat of the brown bear is increasing. The warming of that region has allowed the species to move farther and farther north into what was once exclusively the domain of the polar bear. In non-Arctic areas, habitat loss is blamed as the leading cause of endangerment, followed by hunting. North American brown bears seem to prefer open landscapes, whereas in Eurasia they inhabit mostly dense forests.

Most sight-seeing and photography of brown bears in Alaska is in Katmai National Park and McNeil River, on the Alaskan Peninsula. Katmai contains the world’s largest protected brown bear population, estimated to number in excess of 2,000. Bears are especially likely to congregate at the Brooks Falls viewing platform when the salmon are spawning, and many well known photographs of brown bears have been taken there. The coastal areas such as Hallo Bay, Kukak Bay and Chiniak host the highest population densities year-round, due to the availability of clams and edible coastal sedge as well as salmon and other fish. The vast majority of Katmai visitors come to Brooks Camp, one of the only developed areas of the park. Rangers at the park are extremely careful not to allow bears to obtain human food or get into confrontations with humans. As a result, bears in Katmai National Park are uniquely unafraid of and uninterested in humans, and will allow people to approach and photograph them much more closely than bears elsewhere. The Khutzeymateen Inlet in coastal British Columbia is another great location to photograph brown bears, but is only accessible by boat.

Choose one of the following links to view Polar Bears or return to the Bears main gallery.

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