• Winter light on the Fairweather Range

    Glacier Bay

    National Park & Preserve Alaska

Bear Distribution and Genetics

jumping brown bear
Glacier Bay can be a difficult place to get to!
NPS
 

The deep fjords, islands, and mountains which characterize Southeast Alaska were shaped by a mixture of geological processes and dramatic glacial periods of advance and retreat. From the Little Ice Age until 260 years ago Glacier Bay was largely covered in ice. Since then the glaciers have receded at an unprecedented rate, exposing a new bay and a freshly sculpted land. Mammals colonized Glacier Bay as the glaciers receded. Migrating bears arrived in the new land looking for sources of food, including early successional species such as willow catkins, soapberry, alpine sweet vetch (bear root), and field oxytrope (locoweed). The glaciated mountainous landscape and wide fjords of this unique bay have geographically influenced the colonization of the bay by bears by acting as barriers and directing the flow of migration. Glacier Bay also has a wide spectrum of rapidly varying habitat, ranging from moonscape glacial outwash to rich old growth forest.

 
bear head

Gustavus Bear Population Study
How many bears utilize the area in and around Gustavus, Alaska?

 
brown bear

Brown Bear Genetics Study
Discovering the history of Glacier Bay's bear populations

 
black bear

Glacier Bay Bear Distribution Study
Where the wild things (black and brown bears) are...

 
brown bear and cubs
Brown bears grazing in Queen Inlet

Did You Know?

John Muir

John Muir, beloved naturalist and father of Yosemite National Park, came to Glacier Bay in 1879 to find direct evidence of the presence of glaciers. He believed that Yosemite had been carved by glacier and was able to validate his hypothesis with what he saw in Glacier Bay.