Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
April 2022

New Opportunity to View Bears at McNeil River

By staff
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McNeil River falls and the main viewing area. Photo by Drew Hamilton

A special raffle provides an opportunity to visit the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary this summer.

The sanctuary is located about 100 miles west of Homer on the Alaska Peninsula. Upwards of 144 individual brown bears have been documented feeding on the sanctuary’s tide flats and salmon streams during summer, with as many as 74 bears observed at one time. The Alaska State Legislature set this area aside in 1967 to protect these valuable resources. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game manages public access to the sanctuary to assure wildlife is protected and to assure a quality experience for visitors.

Viewing and photographing the world’s largest seasonal congregation of brown bears at McNeil River continues to be a highly sought-after privilege, with more than 1,100 hopeful applicants vying for the few coveted permits issued by lottery each summer. The 2022 season lottery recently concluded and we are in the process of issuing those permits; however, to provide an additional opportunity and to raise funds to help support Fish and Game’s programs, two permits are being offered through a raffle conducted by Outdoor Heritage Foundation of Alaska.

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Brown bear cubs playfighting at McNeil River. Photo by Drew Hamilton

One winner will be selected and entitled to assign the two permits to whomever they wish (certain limitations will apply). The permit holders will also be provided lodging in Homer, Alaska, and seaplane transportation to the sanctuary.

Further information and online ticket purchases are available at OHFA’s website at Individual raffle tickets cost $20, or 6 for $100, and 40 for $500. Revenue raised will help support wildlife conservation including projects in Alaska state sanctuaries and refuges, and education in outdoor traditions.

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A red fox and wolverine side by side at McNeil River. The sanctuary area offers opportunities to see more than “just” brown bears. Photo by Drew Hamilton

In addition to brown bears and salmon, visitors typically also see red fox, arctic ground squirrels, harbor seals and bald eagles. Other wildlife in the sanctuary includes moose, caribou, wolves, wolverine, various furbearers, waterfowl, songbirds and sea birds. More on the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, including videos on what to expect and what to bring, can be found on the Fish and Game website.

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