Appearing intimidating and ferocious, brown bear species are found in North America and Eurasia. Also known as Grizzly bears in North America, they survive in various habitats such as deserts, high mountains, alpine meadows, coastlines, tundra, and more.
Watching a brown bear in the wilderness is thrilling and exciting. However, as scary as they look, bears are often the most misunderstood species. Far from the stereotypical bloodthirsty savage beasts, brown bears are indeed shy and retiring animals that desire very little interaction from humans.
Bears are always watchable, whether they are climbing inside a den, on trees, or fishing for salmon. Although the old nursery rhymes or stories depict bears as fearsome, bear watching is enjoyable, educational, and fascinating.
Here are the top places where you can spot brown bears in their natural habitat:
Home to approximately 2,000 bears, Finland is one of the best places in Europe to opt for a bear-watching trip. In the far north of Finland, the flourishing wilderness of the country’s taiga forests on the Russian border offers the most flattering sights of brown bears. The eastern and central forests of Lakeland are also ideal destinations in Finland to spot bears.
Martinselkonen Nature Reserve is known to be the best place to photograph bears in Europe. Bears often reside in sparse coniferous forests and can be seen as close as five metres away. Another great spot to see brown bears is Viiksimo, which is located between two nature reserves: Iso-Palonen and Elimyssalo. This area has small lakes, pine forests, and numerous ponds. Aside from bears, one can spot wolverines and wolves as well.
In the Kumho region of Finland, Kuikka Lake is surrounded by boreal forest, a typical habitat for bears. As Kuikka land has open grasslands and wetlands, it offers good visibility for spotting various wildlife. In northeast Finland, the region of Kainuu is situated on the borders of Russia. It is considered a haven for Europe’s finest wildlife creatures. Along with bears, you can have sightings of the golden eagle, Ural owl, and wolverines.
- The best time to go: Bear-watching in Finland begins during the summer, from May to September, when they wake up from hibernation and start feeding again.
Slovenia has rich flora and fauna, with almost 60 percent of its area covered by green forests. There is a large population of brown bears in the country, estimated at between 2,100 and 2,500.
The brown bear is mainly found in the pristine natural forests of the Kočevsko and Notranjska regions. There are approximately 500 bears in these forests, making it impossible to miss this animal in its natural habitat.
The Loz Valley in the Notranjska region of Southern Slovenia is also home to brown bears. It encompasses a large number of uninhabited forests in Central Europe. Aside from various animals living in the valley, this destination has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Slovenia. Moreover, it is located just one hour away from Slovenia’s capital city, Ljubljana.
The Dinaric Alps are a mountain range located in Southern Slovenia. It stretches from Italy across Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro before ending in Albania. Due to the rugged topography and abundant forests, the Dinaric Alps provide excellent sightings of brown bears.
- The best time to go: Bear watching in Slovenia usually occurs from April to September or during the Autumn season. If the warm weather lasts longer, you can even spot them until October.
Alaska contains 98 percent of the U.S. brown bear population and almost 70 percent of the total North American population. With an estimated 30,000 bears living in Alaska, you can encounter them throughout the state except for a few islands.
The top place to spot brown bears in Alaska is the popular Katmai National Park. Here, you can watch Kodiak bears, the largest subspecies of brown bears, hunt for migratory salmon in the Brooks River.
Baranof Island, which lies in the northern Alexander Archipelago, has a vast shoreline stretching around 1,000 kilometres. This forested island is known for its abundant brown bear and Sitka deer populations. When you move to Southeast Alaska, the Tongass National Forest, an 8.5-million-hectare area, is home to a healthy population of brown bears. It is also the earth’s largest remaining temperate rainforest, offering undisturbed and rare natural beauty.
In the Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak Island is the biggest island and is rich in wildlife. The Kodiak bears have lived on the island for 12,000 years and can be spotted easily at the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. At Mount Denali, North America’s highest peak, lies Denali National Park. Famed for its wilderness, you can see bears awakening from their hibernation during the spring, while in the summer, they like to feast on salmon.
- The best time to go: In Alaska, brown bears are often spotted during the early spring and summer, preferably from June to September.
The Kamchatka peninsula is situated in the Russian Far East and is 1,250 km long. The Sea of Okhotsk and the Pacific Ocean make up the peninsula’s eastern and western coastlines.
Kamchatka boasts diverse and copious wildlife. It is famous for its brown bears, which are also referred to as the Kamchatka brown bear. This is a larger subspecies of the European brown bear and can weigh up to 700 kg. There are estimated to be four bears per 100 square kilometres in the Kronotsky Nature Reserve.
Kamchatka brown bears are particularly abundant on the Govena Peninsula. You can also spot other animals in the region, such as Eurasian forest reindeer, northern fur seals, sea otters, mountain sheep, and elk at higher elevations.
- The best time to go: In Russia, you can spot brown bears during the salmon spawning season, which takes place from August to September. In this season, bears come out of their dens to hunt for food.
Spotting brown bears in a natural environment is nothing short of an enthralling experience. Check out our listed locations the next time you plan to see these fuzzy creatures.
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