Responses of Wildlife to Low Levels of Tourism

A brown bear in the intertidal zone looks over its shoulder backwards at the camera.
Brown bear on the shoreline of Glacier Bay
How does tourist visitation to the shorelines of Glacier Bay impact wildlife presence and activity?

Is wildlife activity on popular beaches in Glacier Bay significantly different in a year with very little tourism (2020)?

Principal Researchers:

Tania Lewis (NPS), Mira Sytsma (University of Washington), and Laura Prugh (University of Washington).


Fieldwork will be conducted May - September 2020


Shoreline tourism has been growing in Glacier Bay National Park, and because of this, it is becoming more important to understand how humans and wildlife will continue to coexist in the same space. The shorelines of Glacier Bay provide denning locations, foraging habitats and nesting habitat for wildlife and see the highest concentration of human use, therefore increasing the frequency of human-wildlife interactions. These interactions can cause wildlife to alter their activity patterns, and can ultimately impact their survival and reproduction, demonstrating the need for quantitatively understanding how increased human use of the shoreline is impacting the capacity of wildlife and humans to coexist.

The goal of this study is to provide information to inform park management of the impacts to wildlife occurring across differing levels of human use to establish biologically relevant thresholds of human use to ensure that significant resource degradation does not take place. The specific goal of research in 2020 is to compare wildlife activity in years of normal visitation (2017-2018) with a year of very low visitation (2020) to determine the extent of human disturbance of wildlife.

The following questions will be addressed investigated in this study:
1. Do wildlife change their activity patterns when humans are present at a site compared to when humans are not present?
2. How does wildlife presence change in response to human use of shoreline areas of the park?

Methods 2020

In 2020 we will record animal activity rates with remote cameras at 5 of the 10 sites studied in 2017 and 2018. Pictures collected from remote cameras will be used to quantify presence and activity levels of medium to large mammals to understand how their behavior changes in response to human visitation with the following methods:
  • In 2020, two motion-sensor cameras will be installed at each of five designated study sites previously studied in 2017 and 2018.
  • Cameras will be set up at 1 m height slanted downward so as to capture wildlife activity while maintaining privacy for human visitors by reducing the chance of capturing faces on camera.
  • Cameras will not be used for surveillance placed directly at popular or known camping locations.

Animal activity levels in 2020, a year with minimal human visitation, will provide a baseline of wildlife activity on the shoreline. These natural wildlife activity rates will then be compared to years of normal visitation.

Study Sites

Widlife activity in response to human use study sites indicated on this detailed map

Thank you!

This project will assist management in making yearly decisions concerning tour vessel shore excursions, kayak drop-offs, and other human shoreline use to minimize human disturbance to wildlife. Results will also contribute substantially to upcoming backcountry and wilderness planning efforts.
We recognize that remote cameras in the wilderness may impact visitor experience. We hope that the benefits of this project will outweigh these drawbacks by providing essential information with which to protect wildlife in the future. We thank you for your understanding.
For more information on this project contact:, 907-697-2668.

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

Last updated: June 3, 2020