Both black bears and brown/grizzly bears are present in the Lake Clark region. Black bears use all areas of the the park and preserve, except the higher elevations. Brown bears are most numerous along the coast, where an estimated 180-230 bears graze in salt marshes during the summer.
Brown/grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) have come to symbolize wilderness more than any other animal. Brown bears and grizzlies are essentially the same animal; the larger bears that live in coastal areas are called brown bears, while the smaller interior bears are called grizzlies. The coastal bears tend to be larger due to their more energy-rich diet (especially salmon). Both have the distinctive large shoulder hump, long, curved claws and a wide head with a concave profile, often described as "dish-faced".
Brown bear cubs are born in the den in January or February. They are blind, nearly hairless and weigh only one pound or even less. They are nourished on their mother's rich milk and grow quickly - weighing roughly 15 pounds in the spring when they emerge from the den. By late summer, they may weigh as much as 50 pounds. Families typically stay together for 2 or 3 years and it is not unusual to see siblings remain together for up to an additional year after they are weaned.
Male black bears can weigh between 200 - 400 pounds, while the slightly smaller females range from 120 - 180 pounds. In the spring, newly sprouted vegetation is their main food, but they will eat nearly anything they encounter. As summer progresses, feeding shifts to salmon if they are available. In areas without salmon, bears rely primarily on vegetation throughout the year. Berries, especially blueberries, are an important late summer-fall food. Ants, grubs, and other insects help to round out the black bear's diet.
Despite their name, black bears are not always black. Bears can vary in color from jet black to white. Black is the color encountered most frequently across the state, but brown or cinnamon-colored black bears are sometimes seen in Southcentral Alaska
For more information on how to stay safe in bear country:
NPS Alaska Region Bear Safety Brochure.
Alaska State Parks Bear Safety Page.
Managing your food, fish and garbage appropriately is critical to keeping you safe in bear country. Please see Lake Clark National Park and Preserve's food storage requirements.
Did You Know?
Earthquakes are common in the tectonically active Lake Clark area. The Alaska Peninsula is located on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has one of the highest earthquake frequencies in the world.