Anan Bear Preserve is located 30 miles south of Wrangell on Earnest Sound. We applied for permits to this U.S.Forrest Service controlled wildlife viewing area back in the spring. They only allow 60 visitors per day. We could come here by our own boat but the anchorage in front of the preserve is not recommended by most of the cruising guides due to its depth and lack of wind protection. We opt to visit here with Breakaway Adventures out of Wrangell. We rent a car and drive to Banana Point 30 miles south of Petersburg where a Breakaway boat picked us up for a 20 minute boat ride to Wrangell. Here we joined two other guest. After a 45 minute boat trip down the eastern passage of Wrangell Island, we wade to shore at Anan Creek and are met by a Forrest Service Ranger. We are given a ten minute safety briefing before heading up the one mile trail to the observation deck and viewing blind.
Anan is one of only a few places where both brown and black bear can been seen together. We encounter no bears along the trail although we do see lots of evidence that they have been around. Reaching the viewing platform, we immediately spot five black bears actively fishing for salmon. Many more randomly appear emerging from boulders lining the salmon stream. We are fascinated by the many and varied fishing techniques the bears employ. Some wade out into the stream chest deep and wait for the fish to brush up against their legs. Sometimes they may wait for over an hour to land a fish. Other bears position them self at ambush points and visually spot the fish moving upstream. With a quick lunge, they grab the unsuspecting fish. Some bears eat their pray on the rocks while others carry them to higher ground. A few waste no time and sit right down in the pool to chow down. It quickly appears that some spots are more productive than others for catching fish. There seems to be a hierarchy of who gets the choice of these prime areas. Some of the bears eat the whole fish while others take only the brain and skin leaving the rest for the many eagles hopefully hovering overhead.
We have never seen so many eagles in one place. They are taking advantage of the many fish scraps left by the bears. We spot both young and mature eagles.
Below the viewing platform is a photographer’s blind which looks out directly into the stream. Everyone takes their turn as only five people are allowed in the blind at one time. Inside this camouflage, we are only feet away from the fish snatching wild black bears. One bear catches our scent and becomes very curious. At the time, we are the only two in the blind and it is a little unnerving as he is now only feet away from us with his nose in the air. Our only protection is a canvas window covering and a plywood wall. It seems he was merely inquisitive and is soon preoccupied with the salmon once again.
The four hours at Anan passes quickly and it is soon time to say goodby. We have a safe hike out and no bears are encountered on the trail. It was a spectacular day of viewing bears in their natural habitat.