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Photo Essay: Up Close With an Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear (Play by Play!)


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I got up-close-and-personal with an Alaskan coastal brown bear in the lush coastal rainforest of Katmai National Park. Wanna see what it was like?

In This Alaska Photo Essay You Will Discover:

  • An Impressive Brown Bear
  • Scenic Coastal Environs
  • What, That’s Not Enough?
  • Did I Mention the Bear?

I could bear-ly contain myself when I learned I’d be going to Kodiak Island, Alaska. (OK, I got that out of my system.) It was a place I’d wanted to visit for years—and although I had some preconceptions that were blown out of the water upon arrival—Kodiak exceeded my expectations.

Because it’s all about the bears. Big, beautiful bears. You can keep your lions and your tigers; I think the Alaskan coastal brown bear is the most impressive land-mammal on Earth. Imposing and powerful—yet also cute, with soft eyes and a demeanour that often seems playful—these bears will leave you drop-jawed.

Especially when you get up-close-and-personal, like I did.

The following play-by-play photo essay documents an encounter with a stunning specimen of an Alaskan coastal brown bear in Katmai National Park, Alaska. (We flew from Kodiak to Katmai, as in autumn the bear viewing is more reliable on the  mainland. Confusing, I know…)

I wrote a feature about the experience in the Spring 2017 issue of explore magazine. It’s already garnered some serious praise—I encourage you to pick up a copy (Canadian newsstand distribution).

Until then, enjoy my Bucket List encounter with an Alaskan coastal brown bear:


We first spotted the bear from about 500 metres away, so we got into position on a sandbar.


He took his sweet time, poking around the sedges and grass.


…the seagulls paid no mind…


But by now we could hear his paws on the ground as well as his deep breaths.


He knew we were only a few dozen metres away. He didn’t care.


In fact, he was going to intercept us on the sandbar like we weren’t even there!


The bear’s calmness put us at-ease. No one could resist a selfie.


He was poking around, looking for the last remaining salmon.


No luck today.


We are only about 10 metres away by now. The bear was indifferent.


But how close will he come?


Oh—I think we made a noise. He’s paying attention now.


Maybe too much attention?


Nah. He’s cool.


Incredible—he likely weighs more than 250 kilograms. And the largest of these bears can double that.




He’s on his way upstream now, leaving us with full memory cards and slack-jawed grins. (For proximity context, this image was snapped with a 23mm lens.)


Bye, bear!

Discover more about Kodiak Island at kodiak.org.

About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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