Outdoor Alaska: McNeil River bear viewing permit applications close this weekend

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anyone wanting to get an up close and personal experience with bears at the largest concentration of brown bears in the world has only a few more days to apply for a permit.


The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issues fewer than 200 viewing permits and just over 50 standby permits for the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary. The application deadline for the 2020 season is midnight on March 1.

"It's sort of like living National Geographic, but you're actually there and you can feel the weather and you can hear the sounds yourself and it's just incredible," Robin Dublin said.

Dublin first visited McNeil River as a permit winner in the mid 1990s, then returned for research and later guided visitors while working for ADF&G.

While there are many different areas and ways to view bears in Alaska, Dublin says McNeil River experience is unlike any other she's witnessed.

"A lot of people come with apprehension or excitement or this nervous energy, and after the second day or so, people really relax to the point where there are people who will actually take a nap within 15 or 20 feet from brown bears that are feeding on fish," Dublin said. "People think 'oh, this is beyond me. I'm not a big camper, I'm not a big mountain climber or hiker, or I'm not a big photographer.' None of that should prevent anyone from applying and going, because if you can get together some camping gear and learn how to set up the tent that you're bringing, this is something pretty much anyone can do."

The lottery application fee is $30 per person. The fee for a viewing permit if chosen is $225 for Alaska residents and $525 for non-residents. The fee for a standby permit is approximately half of that.

You can learn more about the experience and application process on the . ADF&G website.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.