Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
February 2022

Wildlife Viewing in Alaska
McNeil Bears, Round Island Walrus

By Adam DuBour
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Brown bear with salmon at the Falls of McNeil River. Photo by Drew Hamilton/ADF&G.

Along the west side of Cook Inlet at the base of the Alaska Peninsula, the world’s largest concentration of brown bears gathers each summer at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary to feast on salmon returning to their natal streams. To protect bears and their habitats while allowing the public to observe this unique spectacle, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages a guided bear viewing program at the sanctuary. Accompanied by ADF&G sanctuary managers, groups of 10 visitors at a time are afforded the rare opportunity to view wild bears in their natural setting, up close and personal.

Visitors are selected by lottery for one of the four-day time blocks available from June 7th to August 25th. If drawn, Alaska residents pay a $225 permit fee and nonresidents $525. Applications for this summer viewing program must be submitted by midnight on March 1. Hard copy applications submitted by mail must be received by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game by close of business on March 1. A nonrefundable application fee of $30 per person is required.

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Brown bears at the McNeil River, the viewing platform is just out of the frame in the foreground and overelooks this view. Drew Hamilton/ADF&G

Online applications and printable application forms are available through the “Permits” tab and “Viewing Permits” link.

Brown bear species profile

Information on the McNeil River bear viewing program and application process

Table of Contents bear photo by Drew Hamilton/ADF&G

Round Island and Walrus

Perhaps you’re seeking a remote island adventure. Then a trip to the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary in Bristol Bay might be for you. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game manages a campground and viewing program at Round Island, remotely located in the northern reaches of Bristol Bay. Adventurous visitors that undertake the journey and brave the fickle weather are rewarded by the island’s wildlife treasures and a chance to test their outdoor skills.

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Round Island walrus. ADF&G photo.

In between storms the island emerges as a lush green paradise teeming with wildlife. Each spring and summer the island’s shorelines host hundreds to thousands of Pacific walruses as they sun themselves in between feeding forays at sea. Hundreds of Steller sea lions also haulout at Round Island and a cacophony of thousands of seabirds can be heard from their nests along the island’s cliffs. The island is home to red foxes and songbirds as well. Walruses are sensitive to disturbance from people, aircraft, and vessel traffic. Therefore, sanctuary managers staff the island throughout the summer to monitor and protect the walrus haulouts and other wildlife of the island to ensure that they are not disturbed.

For information on visiting the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary, go to: Or contact Lands and Refuges Manager Adam DuBour at 907-267-2189 or

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Red foxes are a common sight at round Island, as well as songbirds and seabirds.

Wildlife Educator Sierra Rose Doherty writes about a visit to Round Island

Watch a one-minute video of a red fox at Round Island.

Watch a golden-crowned sparrow singing on Round Island.

Murres on Round Island

Pacific walrus species profile

Walrus video

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