Index of  Bear  Webpages
Bear Viewing Association
To watch, to wonder, and to conserve
Ph/Fax (907) 260-9059 (Office)
39200 Alma Ave.    Soldotna, AK  99669
bear viewing Alaska, bear photography, bear safety, bear behavior

Answers to questions commonly asked by wildlife viewers on the topics listed below:
Bear Viewing Association
To watch, to wonder, and to conserve
Ph/Fax (907) 260-9059 (Office)
39200 Alma Ave.    Soldotna, AK  99669
bear viewing Alaska, bear photography, bear safety, bear behavior
Origins and Justification
The following statement is a modified quotation from our sister organization, the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of
British Columbia.
 Original components of the CBVA document are in quotes.  

This series of webpages reflect the experience of (a) the Bear Viewing Association in America, (b) the Commercial Bear
Viewing Association of British Columbia (CBVA) member companies, (c) other bear viewing guides and tour companies, "who,
collectively, represent thousands of hours and many years of incident free, enjoyable and sustainable bear viewing in various
regions of British Columbia," Alaska and the contiguous United States. "Our best practices documents have also had key input
from respected wildlife biologists (some of whom are listed at the end of this introduction). The practices found within this
document are intended to be consistent with (a) all laws, regulations and policies by relevant Federal, state, and provincial
government agencies, Native American tribes, or other Native American organizations; (b) as well as with any agreements
signed by the BVA with said entities.  This and the following four pages of BVA's
Ten Golden Rules of Bear Viewing
incorporate insights, and in some cases quotes, from the Best Practices document of the
Commercial Bear Viewing Association
of British Columbia, Canada.

"Our best practices have evolved in an adaptive context. What does that mean? Basically it starts with the premise that we as
operators desire to have as minimal an impact on bears as we can." Since approximately 1970 when some of our members
pioneered this industry in Alaska and B.C. "there were no guidelines and very little research on how to safely view bears in the
wild. These viewers would try a technique or strategy designed for low impact viewing and if they saw a negative outcome (i.e.,
a stressed bear) they would modify their viewing behaviour and start again. Over many years of this adaptive viewing, our
members" and cooperating government agency personnel "have evolved techniques and strategies that we believe are highly
effective. These techniques allow our guides and tour companies to offer guests a quality viewing experience while minimizing
impact on the environment and the bears."

"We as an association are committed to continuing to evolve our viewing techniques and strategies as new research and our
experience dictates. We help to fund important, professional research on human-bear interactions. Some of this research has
had surprising results. For example, research on viewing in Knight Inlet," McNeil Falls, and Katmai National Park has led to
data that suggests viewing actually may help the long-term viability of local populations. Research data of Stephen Stringham
(formerly University of Alaska) and Owen Nevin (formerly Utah State University) "indicated that females with cubs may feel less
stressed during feeding while in the presence of humans. This is thought to be because large male bears are less likely to
intrude on female/cub feeding sessions when humans are present. This has led to important changes to bear viewing in Knight
Inlet which allows viewers to watch females with cubs while at the same time allowing enough space and time for large male
bears to get the nourishment they require. This is but one example of important on-going research that is key to the long-term
viability of our bear viewing industry."

North America is fortunate to have Grizzly bears (including the ghost grizzly color phase), Brown bears (coastal grizzlies), Black
bears (including the Kermode or Spirit bear, and Blue color phases), and Polar bears. "These bears are wild, elusive and
highly intelligent. They are a symbol of our wilderness and are a touchstone for that mystical, timeless connection we have with
the Earth. Our members and our guests witness a side to these animals that most of the public never sees. Our guests are
able to see bears going about the day-to-day work of living - mating, feeding, hunting, resting, playing, fighting and learning.
This makes us appreciate bears for what they are and is what makes wildlife viewing such a remarkable and moving

BVA's Ten Golden Rules of Bear Viewing   (click here for details on each Golden Rule)

BVA certification attests that a guide has demonstrated at least the minimum level of knowledge which BVA Master
Guide-instructors have found -- through personal experience or communication with other experts -- to minimize risk to
guides and viewers in the situations specified for each level of certification.  Certification is not a guarantee that the guide will
successfully utilize said knowledge, or that said knowledge will suffice to prevent bear aggression, whether at the level of
threat, minor assault, or serious attack.  There are too many factors beyond a guide's control, and beyond an instructor's
ability to predict, for BVA or its instructors to assume any liability for any other sort of responsibility for the success of its
program to prevent harm of any sort to any human or animal.

For further details on our Disclaimer, click
For further information on general liability issues for guides, tour companies and wildlife managers,  
Viewing, was derived from decades of field observations observing bears, humans and other wildlife, as well as many years
of thinking and writing about those observations.  All information provided by BVA is meant to be an adaptable -- that is to
evolve and change over time as new insights are gained and as different perspectives are taken into account.  

This document reflects the collected wisdom of the following people, organizations and source documents:

  • Members of the Bear Viewing Association, United States (work begun in 2003)
  o   Stephen Stringham, PhD (Director) research biologist and guide
  o   Lynn Rogers, PhD research biologist and guide
  o   Kent Fredriksson, professional photographer and guide
  o   Buck Wilde, professional photographer, writer and guide
  o   Brad Josephs, professional guide
  o   John Rogers, ship captain and owner Katmai Coastal Bear Tours
  o   Ann Bryant, Executive Director, Bear League, Tahoe Basin, California
  o   Susan Morse, MA, professional photographer, animal tracker, writer, and educator
  o   Jim Phillips, MSc professional guide and biologist
  o   Elle Chavez, professional guide
  o   Numerous other guides and photographers during discussions with Stephen Stringham

  • Bear Viewing Etiquette document (pdf) from the
   Kodiak Unified Bear Subcommittee, of the Kodiak Fish & Game Advisory Board (2003).

  • Insights from books and research papers by
  o   Steve Herrero, PhD
  o   Tom Smith, PhD
  o   Terry DeBruyn, PhD
  o   Ben Kilham, PhD
  o   Tom Bledsoe, MSc
  o   Al Egbert, PhD
  o   Derek Stonorov, MSc  (
Living with Bears brochure)
  o   Barrie Gilbert, PhD
  o   Owen Nevin, PhD
  o   Tamara Olsen

  • Best Practices for Viewing Bears on the West Side of Cook Inlet and the Katmai Coast, Alaska (2003)
  (document produced by the Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game and the National Park Service, in cooperation with
   several bear viewing guides and bear viewing tour operators)

  • Members of the Commercial Bear Viewing Association of BC.
  o    Utah State University researchers Dr. Barrie Gilbert, PhD and Owen T. Nevin, PhD
  o    Grant MacHutchon
  o    Wayne McCrory

  • Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Wildlife Branch with special note to Doug Janz

  • Glendale Cove Bear Viewing Management Plan

  • Khutzeymateen Interim Protection Plan
Ten Golden Rules of Bear Viewing
..1) Be prepared.
..2) Avoid bears when and where you are not prepared to cope with them.
..3) View from a bear-proof location unless you can cope with encounters.
..4) Remain with at least five other people.
..5) View only trusting, respectful bears.
..6) Don’t smell or act like food; don’t compete with bears for food; don’t feed or touch them.
..7) Be wary, sensitive, cooperative and adaptable.
..9) Avoid tunnel vision and surprise encounters; be predictable.
.9  Don’t displace or crowd bears; don't trespass on their turf.
10) Be courteous and respectful; conserve the resource.
(c) 2016 S. Stringham