Lesson Plan

Carrying Capacity and Bears in Alaska

two mother grizzlies, each with several cubs, walking through a grassy field
What factors dictate how many bears can live in a given area?

NPS Photo / K. Jalone

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Grade Level:
Ninth Grade-Twelfth Grade
Biology: Animals, Biology: Plants, Ecology, Wildlife Biology, Wildlife Management
2 (50 minute) class period + independent research time
National/State Standards:
CCSS.9-10.RST.2. CCSS.9-10.WHST.9
NGSS:  HS-LS2-A. HS-LS2-1.
wildlife biology, carrying capacity, Limiting Factors, biology, plants, animals, lacl, alaska


This lesson allows students to learn about the concept of carrying capacity by looking at the factors that allow animals to thrive in some areas, but not in others. Students will learn about the brown bears of Lake Clark National Park and the Denali area to see why some are leading successful lives and reproducing often and why some aren’t doing as well.


  • Students will identify factors affecting carrying capacity.
  • Students will explain why some animals are successful while others are not.


Lake Clark National Park and Preserve sits on the coast of the Cook Inlet and is home to one of the largest brown bear populations in the state of Alaska.

Park biologists work year-round to study the brown bears that live in Lake Clark. They observe the bears' diet, competition (both for mating and preferential habitat), and longevity. With rich vegetation, a large supply of bivalves, and spawning salmon, Lake Clark offers plenty of food for bears to thrive. This contrasts drastically with the interior of the state, where food is scarcer and bear populations are comparatively low. 

Data gathered by park biologists gives an inside-look at the lives of bears, providing us with the opportunity to explore the idea of carrying capacity (i.e., how many animals can live in a given area).




  • Students will create a Venn-diagram displaying the similarities and differences between the diets of inland and coastal bears.
  • Students should write a statement regarding carrying capacity, in which they correlate bear populations in different ecosystems.


Carrying Capacity, Ecosystems, Populations

Last updated: July 11, 2018