Alaska Fish & Wildlife News
February 2020

Wildlife Viewing in Alaska
McNeil Bears, Round Island Walrus

By Ed Weiss
caption follows
Walrus at Round Island

If you’ve ever wanted to view bears up close in their natural environment, then viewing brown bears at McNeil River State Game Sanctuary could be your next big adventure.

Each summer the incredible brown bears of the Alaskan Peninsula gather at the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary to feast on salmon returning to their natal streams. And the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and some lucky visitors are there to observe the spectacle, up close and personal. The ADF&G manages a guided bear viewing program at the sanctuary.

Visitors are selected by lottery and, 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.

Perhaps you’re seeking a remote island adventure. Then a trip to the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary in Bristol Bay might by 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. Lucky 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.

In between storms the island emerges as a lush green paradise teaming 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 nest along the island’s cliffs. The island is home to red foxes and songbirds as well.

caption follows
A red fox at Round Island

For information on visiting the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary.

Contact Lands and Refuges Manager Ed Weiss at 907-267-2189 or

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

Brown bear species profile

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

Visitors are transported to Round Island by boat and then shuttled to shore in a small inflatable or dinghy. This group of walrus approached the transport boat as it was anchored just off Round Island and the captain was preparing to shuttle the visitors ashore in the small inflatable. Guidelines recommend not approaching marine mammals closer than 100 meters and not approaching in a manner that disturbs them or alters their behavior; but walrus, sea lions and other marine mammals are curious and will sometimes approach people. These animals initiated this encounter, but such an encounter can be potentially dangerous. One of these animals actually punctured one of the inflated chambers of the dinghy, damaging the boat. Walrus video

Subscribe to be notified about new issues

Receive a monthly notice about new issues and articles.