Bear watching is exhilarating and rewarding. Bears are one of the most endearing of large carnivores and undoubtedly one of the most photogenic. Our bear watching holidays offer a wide range of trips, destinations and locations that we’ve spent years developing, including...
Why our bear watching holidays are so successful
And with over 25 years’ experience in creating tailor-made wildlife holidays, you can trust us to design a bear watching trip that meets your specific requirements.
What bears to see and where
Primarily northern hemisphere animals, bears are largely found in Asia, Europe and North America. With the exception of the polar bear, most bears are forest species, but may seasonally inhabit alpine scrub or tundra areas.
American brown (grizzly) bear
The American brown bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) generally lives in the uplands of western North America, and is also referred to as the grizzly bear. A large hump over their shoulders, a muscle mass used to power the forelimbs in digging, is a good way to distinguish brown bear from black bear.
One of the highest concentrations of brown bears in Canada can be found at Bella Coola, a hidden gem in a vast area known as the Great Bear Rainforest. Alaska is also famed for its grizzlies, particularly in the volcanic Katmai National Park during the salmon run, and on Kodiak Island which has been inhabited by brown bears for over 12,000 years.
European brown bear
The European brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) is found across northern Europe, with Finland deemed to be one of Europe’s premier brown bear locations. Their ‘brown’ fur can vary from yellow-brownish to dark brown, red brown, and almost black. The shape of the head is normally quite round with relatively small round ears.
Europe offers a variety of locations to view brown bears in the wild, ranging from the dense forests of Finland, to mountainous regions of Romania, and the protected area of La Montaña Palentina in northern Spain.
In spite of being a beautiful honey coloured ‘white’, spirit bears are in fact black bears (Ursus americanus). It is on Princess Royal Island in British Columbia that you find the spirit bear. These ‘white’ black bears (which owe their unusual colouring to a double recessive gene) are elusive, with optimum sightings occurring from the end of August to early October.
Searching for these rare creatures on our spirit bear trips is an adventure in itself, and involves boat trips and short walks to reach specially located viewing platforms which offer superb photographic opportunities. The platforms are well positioned above salmon streams and patience is likely to be rewarded not only with spirit bears but black bears fishing for salmon.
American black bear
The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is the most common bear species native to North America. British Columbia on Canada’s west coast is by far the best location for seeing black bears. In particular, Vancouver Island and the Great Bear Rainforest offer excellent sightings. The ears of a black bear are larger and more erect than those of the brown bear.
Bear watching is highly seasonal and dependent on some of nature’s other wonders, particularly the running of salmon in the rivers and streams. Essentially, the northern hemisphere summer months are best for black bear watching, with many bears being visible in the latter part of the season due to an essential need to gorge themselves before hibernating.
The polar bear (Ursus maritimus) is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. Our polar bear trips include land based trips in Canada, and arctic voyages to Spitsbergen.
In particular, Churchill in Canada is known as the ‘polar bear capital of the world’ and is the only human settlement where polar bears can be observed in the wild – it lies right in the bears’ migratory path. They gather in Churchill, on the west coast of Hudson Bay, during October and pass through the area until November.
The sloth bear (Melursus ursinus) is a solitary bear found largely within the Indian Subcontinent. They are thought to be ancestors of the brown bear, however are quite different in appearance with a long shaggy black coat, cream nose and slender body. Feeding mostly on insects, such as ants and termites, these bears have evolved long, curved claws for digging and have adapted their lower lip and palate to become perfect for sucking out insects from nests.
Satpura National Park is a particularly good area to see sloth bear in India, and our Walking with Sloth Bears itinerary gives the rare opportunity of experiencing a safari on foot, as well as by vehicle.