Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program:
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources


Effects of Human Visitation on Bear Activity

June 2022 - December 2024


Participating Agencies

The impacts of recreational activity on wildlife can be substantial. In areas with high concentrations of humans and wildlife, there may be high potential for human activity to negatively affect wildlife. At the Anan Observatory, near Wrangell, Alaska, the USDA Forest Service recently renovated their viewing platform at a substantial cost to the ranger district. The Anan Observatory is a highly regulated bear viewing site in the Tongass National Forest, with visitation controlled through a permit system, however the construction of a larger viewing platform has led to calls for increasing the number of permits, and thus the human visitation rates.

We will use remote cameras deployed at the observatory and at the upper falls, an area off limits to recreational visitation approximately 0.5-km upstream, to quantify bear activity patterns during the tourist season during the summers of 2022, 2023, and 2024. We will use a combination of occupancy modeling and activity patterns analysis to determine if activity levels differ between the control area (upper falls) and the observatory, and if bear activity is related to hourly human visitation rates. We will also use long-term monitoring data from the observatory to determine if chronic human visitation has affected bear feeding activity.

The results of this study will provide the USDA Forest Service with important information that they can use to determine if increased permitting will have deleterious effects on bears at Anan Observatory. There is substantial financial pressure surrounding the management of the observatory, with a number of guiding services operating out of the town of Wrangell, and their financial security is contingent on a long-term management plan that maximizes the number of visitors without having any adverse effects on wildlife.