• Sunset view of Glacier Bay and the surrounding Fairweather Mountains.

    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Bear Distribution Study

Bear in Glacier Bay
Brown bear in front of the Grand Pacific Glacier
 
bear shedding poster

Do Bears Shed in the Woods?
-Collecting bear hair for genetic analysis

Black and Brown Bear Distribution
A study from 2009-2010 investigated the distribution of bears along the length of the bay, in relation to the plant and stream succession of the landscape and the number of years the land has been exposed by glacial retreat. The study explored patterns of distribution among present bear populations. Bear tracks and hair collected from rub trees (see "Do bears shed in the woods?") were analyzed to help understand how modern Glacier Bay bears are influenced by the unique landscape surrounding Glacier Bay. Anecdotally, the recently forested southern bay has been inhabited only by black bears while brown bears in Glacier Bay have been associated with old growth forests of the outer coast and recently de-glaciated areas. This study discovered that black bear distribution is strongly associated with closed forest cover. Surprisingly however, brown bears were found in EVERY part of the bay, including the young forests in the southern bay. Click here for a map of the study sites. This discovery indicates that brown bears are in an ongoing process of colonization, expanding their range into the forelands, including the town of Gustavus.

 
bears feeding
Brown bear feeding on willow leaves near the glaciers while a black bear browses devil's club berries in the forest of Bartlett Cove.
NPS
 

As testament to the brown bears' range expansion, 2012 was the third year in over 50 that brown bears were regularly sighted on the Bartlett River, in Bartlett Cove, and Gustavus. One major behavioral difference between the two species is that brown bears may charge or even attack (rarely) when surprised or defending cubs or a carcass. It is vital for park visitors and community members to minimize bear attractants in town, and important for everyone to make noise and pay attention while hiking or berry picking.
(see "Browns in Town)

 
Bear distribution map for glacier bay
Bear distribution in Glacier Bay
NPS

Did You Know?

Forage fish

Dense schools of forage fish, like herring and sand lance, are an abundant food source for many creatures, from the massive Humpback Whale to the diminutive Marbled Murrelet. Schools of forage fish can be literally miles long and hundreds of feet thick.