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Best Places to See Brown Bears

Brown Bear
Brown Bear

Looking for the Best Places to See Brown Bears?

Brown bears are some of the most majestic and intriguing mammals to roam the earth, they have been widely documented and have appeared in many movies.

But how much do we really know about the Brown Bear? Where can you encounter these interesting animals in the wild? What should you do if you ever find yourself face-to-face with a bear?

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We’ll take you through the ins and outs of a bear’s life and the answers to these questions in this blog.

If you are here for something specific use the below links to get there, otherwise enjoy this blog in its entirety

General Summary

Location, Location, Location

Population and Distribution

Characteristics and Behaviour

Diet

Hibernation

When Bears wake up

Viewing Etiquette

Avoiding and Encounter

Bear Attacks

Threats

5 Fun Facts

Operators

General Summary

Currently, the worlds Brown Bear population is not under immediate threat and is classified by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) as being “of least concern”.  

Brown Bear

This is indeed great news, however other closely related bear species such as the Polar Bear are sadly endangered significantly, therefore seeing one in the wild is very lucky and raising awareness is very important. Brown bears are easily identifiable by their long thick brown fur, with a distinct mane at the back of their necks.

Brown bear vs Grizzly Bear:

They are mostly known as Brown Bears in European areas, unlike in North America where they are rather called Grizzly Bears- named from their grizzled fur coat. Brown Bears have a substantial lifespan of around 20 to 30 years in the wild and can live up to 50 years in captivity. They are also known for being extremely heavy animals, with the males ranging from 135 kgs to 650 kilograms plus! Females weigh in at around 80-250 kilograms- so much lighter than their male counterparts. 

Best Locations to visit Brown Bears: 

The Brown Bear is a species found across the world and is categorized as the most widely distributed bears in the world.

They are found in Forests and Mountains across Europe, Asia and North America. The World’s largest Brown Bears are found in the coastal regions of Alaska and British Colombia – on islands such as Kodiak. 

Operators in the North American regions include: Kodiak Bear Centre , Alaska Tours , Pack Creek Bear Tours and Alaska Northern Adventures .

Brown bears can be found in a variety of habitats, from the fringes of deserts to high mountain forests and ice fields. In Europe, the Brown Bear is mostly found in mountain woodlands-, like in Siberia where they locate primarily in forests.

In North America, they gravitate towards tundra, alpine meadows, and coastlines, seeking areas with dense cover for daytime shelter.

For those in Europe, Northern Finland stands out as a reliable spot to catch a glimpse of the European Brown Bear, offering remarkably close views from well-placed hides. Another unforgettable experience lies in observing Grizzly Bears during their salmon-catching season in Western Canada, especially in spring—a true natural history spectacle.

Nordic Experience is a European operator featured in the interactive map above, known for delivering remarkable encounters with these captivating creatures.

If you’ve been stirred by the desire to witness these majestic animals in their natural habitat, explore the operators mentioned in the blog and consult the map for regions where Brown Bears can be found in the wild. The map also pinpoints tour sites that offer guided encounters with these magnificent creatures.

Brown bear habitat, population and distribution

Globally, there are over 200,000 Brown Bears, with Russia hosting the majority, boasting more than 100,000 of these mighty creatures.

Around 8,000 resilient brown bears inhabit Western Europe and the Carpathians (Slovakia, Poland, Ukraine, Romania). They’re also spotted in Palestine, Eastern Siberia, the Himalayas, potentially the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa, and even Hokkaido, Japan.

In the mountainous terrains of Western Canada and Alaska, the species thrives, with an estimated population of up to 30,000 individuals. However, in various parts of the United States, grizzly bears number fewer than 1,000.

This is in contrast to the early 1900’s where Grizzly Bears in the United States were plentiful- the increase in trophy hunting is believed to be the cause of the Brown Bears moving more Northwards.

Characteristics and Behaviour: 

New-born Brown bears are very vulnerable as they are born blind, naked and weighing only 340 to 680 grams.

Brown Bear and Cubs

Brown Bear weight

Cubs do however, grow very quickly, reaching 25kg by 6 months, and continue lactating for 18 to 30 months while learning to eat a variety of foods. Cubs usually remain with their mother until the third or fourth year of their life. Brown Bear cubs become sexually mature from the ages 4 to 6 years old, however they still to grow themselves until 10-11 years old. Interior brown bears are generally smaller than is often perceived, being around the same weight as an average lion, at an estimate average of 180 kg (400 lb) in males and 135 kg (298 lb) in females, whereas adults of the coastal populations weigh about twice as much.

Often Brown Bear males fight over females, and once they have won, they tend to guard them as their own for 1 to 3 weeks.

Brown bears mate from May to July, and a gestation of 180 to 266 days follows, with births occurring from January to March, usually while the female is still in hibernation. She generally has two or three offspring at a time, and breeds again 2 to 4 years later. 

How long do bears live?

In the wild, the brown bears can reach 20 to 30 years of age. Despite this long life expectancy, most brown bears die very early.

Diet

Brown Bears are omnivorous meaning they eat plants as well as meat, and their diet varies with the season and what is available in their habitat at the time.  

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From grass and shoots in the spring, to berries and apples in the summer, nuts and plums in autumn.

All year round they eat roots, insects, mammals such as moose and elk, reptiles, and of course, honey. In Alaska, grizzlies feed on salmon during the summer which is a gorgeous sight to see them catch the Salmon as the Salmon attempt to migrate upstream.

Brown bears usually forage at dawn in the morning and at dusk in the  evening and rest under dense vegetation during the day. Depending on the season, brown bears may travel hundreds of kilometres during the autumn to locate food supplies.

Hibernation: 

Every year Brown Bears go into hibernation around November and December for up to six months. The main reason for this is to preserve their energy during low food supply months in the winter.

Bear in Water, images of bears

In preparation for hibernation Brown Bears eat around the clock (they may eat up to 40 kilograms of food per day). During Hibernation the Brown Bears heart rate drops to a mere 8 beats per minute in contrast to their usual 90 beats per minute.

In addition to this, their body temperature drops significantly whilst they are asleep in their dens. Despite being in hibernation, bears can still be easily awakened during this period and almost always give birth to their cubs during the hibernation period. 

When Bears wake up 

As spring arrives and snow melts away, bears awaken from their months-long hibernation. It’s an exciting time for both bears and park visitors.

Brown Bear Cub

These hungry bears immediately embark on a quest for nourishment, and nature provides them with an abundance of options. The retreating snow reveals nutrient-rich vegetation, and the remains of winter kills, such as deer, elk, and moose, become easy pickings. For bears, this marks a crucial period of replenishing their energy stores after a long winter, as they prepare for hibernation once more in the fall.

For visitors starting their spring and summer vacations, the emergence of brown bears offers a unique opportunity to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. However, it also introduces a potential interaction with human food sources, whether accidental or intentional.

Viewing Etiquette

Many people wish to visit Brown Bears in the Spring time, however often there is misinformation about what is in ones best interest when viewing these animals in the wild. 

Brown Bear

Respecting a bear’s space is paramount. Binoculars and spotting scopes offer a close-up view without intruding on their territory. Never approach, chase, or disturb bears, and if your presence alters their behavior, you’re too close. Consult park regulations, as viewing distances may vary by species and terrain; for example, Yellowstone National Park mandates a minimum 100-yard (300-foot) distance.

For solo travelers seeking wildlife encounters, it’s crucial to stay in groups, use designated paths, minimize noise, and move cautiously in areas with low visibility. Maintain awareness and communicate calmly to signal your human presence.

When you come across a seemingly “orphaned” or sick bear, it’s best to leave them undisturbed. Young animals often have their mothers nearby, and interfering could lead to trouble.

In the rare event of close bear contact, provide ample space for the bear to pass, and avoid running, which might trigger pursuit. Bears are significantly swifter than humans, so move calmly and deliberately to avoid provoking them.

Avoiding an Encounter

Following Viewing Etiquette  is the first step to avoiding an encounter with a bear that could escalate into an attack.

Brown Bear Cubs

Keeping your distance and not surprising bears are some of the most important things you can do. Most bears will avoid humans if they hear them coming. Pay attention to your surroundings and make a special effort to be noticeable if you are in an area with known bear activity or a good food source, such as berry bushes.

Bear Attacks

Bear encounters are scarce, with most bears primarily interested in safeguarding their food, cubs, or territory. Nevertheless, mental preparedness can make a significant difference in your response. While each situation is unique, here’s some guidance for dealing with a Brown Bear/Grizzly encounter.

First and foremost, promptly report all bear incidents to a park ranger to help safeguard others. But the key is to maintain a safe distance from bears. In the event of an attack by a Brown/Grizzly bear, leave your backpack on and assume a “play dead” posture. Lie very still and flat on your stomach, with your hands clasped behind your neck. Widening your legs can make it more challenging for the bear to turn you over if it attempts to do so.

Stay as motionless as possible until the bear loses interest or departs the vicinity. In most cases, resisting or fighting back can escalate the aggression of the attack. However, if the attack persists, defend yourself vigorously. Utilize any available objects to strike the bear in the face, but avoid fleeing, as this could provoke the bear to give chase.

Threats to Brown Bears: 

Brown bears were once subject to hunting and big game trophies, as well as being sought for their meat and hides. Bear gall bladders reportedly bring high prices on the Asian aphrodisiac market, but although demand is growing, there is no evidence that products derived from bear parts have medical value.

Brown bear


Other serious threats to bears are habitat destruction which is the problem that affects populations of different species. Habitat destruction includes the effects of Global warming, and Climate change on natural habitats but also the man-made deforestation etc.  

For example, grizzly bears are now found only in 2% of their former range. Logging, mining, road construction and other developments have reduced available bear habitat and contributed to the decrease in bear populations. The decreasing population in the United States is a direct effect of the aforementioned industrialisation occurring. 

In some countries, human/bear conflict has caused problems, particularly in areas where bears can interfere with livestock, orchards, water supplies and garbage bins

5 Fun Facts: 

  1.  Grizzly bears have been clocked running up to 35 miles per hour. (whereas the top human speed ever recorded is 27.8 mph). 
  2. This species is one of the largest living carnivores on earth 
  3. Bears are commonly silent but can communicate with grunts, roars, or squeals. 
  4. Nearly 50 percent of all brown bear cubs die before they are one year old. 
  5. The brown bear is the largest predator still living on the continent of Europe.

Summary on Best Places to See Brown Bears

If you enjoyed reading this blog, you will most likely our other blogs related to bears! Read up on the Worlds largest bear- the Polar bear and our top 10 recommended, European animal encounters. Enjoy!