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Guide to Wildlife in Juneau: What Will You See?

a bear walking down the road

Tucked between soaring mountain peaks and the Gastineau Channel, the Alaskan capital is home to a wide range of animals on land and in the water. The wildlife in Juneau is what draw many to this town, with the chance to see everything from humpback, orcas, and sea lions to black bears and bald eagles.

A private tour is arguably the best way to get a closer look at Juneau’s incredible wildlife. An expert guide not only provides a more exclusive, personalized experience but fascinating insight into what you’re seeing for a more enriching excursion. Of course, you can look for the animals independently too.


a humpback whale swimming in a body of water

A humpback whale tail off the shores of Juneau, Alaska

The whales are a big attraction in Juneau, with humpbacks the star of the show. Their long migration journey, traveling all the way from tropical waters in Hawaii and Mexico, brings them here to feast in the colder feeding grounds. They can be seen from April through November, but the best time to come for whale watching is between May and mid-September when the success rate is nearly 100 percent. There will be roughly 600 humpback whales in the region with daily boat trips rarely returning without a sighting. And, often there are many seen on one excursion.

Orcas, or killer whales, can be seen year-round, but they aren’t always easy to find, moving quickly over vast areas, swimming as much as 200 miles a day. That’s not to say you won’t see them with about 10 percent of whale watching boat tours treated to orca sightings.

If you’re very lucky, you might see humpback or even orcas swim right past town. But the most reliable way to spot them is on a boat tour. For a high-end, private tour led by a master captain/naturalist, you’ll want to book with Alaska Luxury Tours. You’ll be picked up in a luxury Mercedes from your hotel or dockside next to your cruise ship for the ultimate experience.


a bear walking down the road

black bear crossing the road in Juneau

Black bears are commonly spotted in Juneau, not only in the surrounding forests but immediately around the town too. Look up at the avalanche slopes on Mount Juneau where you might see them munching on the vegetation. In August and into September, the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center offers some of the most accessible bear viewing.

The coho and sockeye salmon that spawn in Steep Creek in the Mendenall Valley attracts many mothers and cubs. They can often be seen within just a few yards of viewing platforms that can be found along an elevated boardwalk. Just keep in mind that these are dangerous, wild animals, despite their seemingly docile experience. Don’t bring food, stay on the trail, and give them plenty of space. Forest Service interpreters are usually here to provide information about the animals and their habitat during peak bear season.

Brown bears can be seen in the Pack Creek Brown Bear Viewing Area on Admiralty Island. The native Tlingíts call it Kootznoowoo, which means “fortress of the bears.” Run by both the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the forest service, the average density is one brown bear per square mile, or roughly 1,600 bears. The adventurous can kayak there but everyone else can take a float plane or boat, with the peak time to see them varying by year. Traditionally, it’s most of July and August.

The bears’ monikers can be deceptive. Brown bears can be black, and black bears can be brown. The difference is the black bears are smaller with adult males averaging around 400 pounds. An adult male brown bear can weigh over 1,000 pounds.

Bald Eagles

a bird flying over a body of water

bald eagle at Eagle Beach near Juneau

Frankly, it would be difficult NOT to see a bald eagle. Southeast Alaska is home to approximately 20,000 of the birds, or nearly one for every three residents. They can be seen soaring over downtown, perched in the trees, and on posts. High numbers arrive when spawning salmon return to the Macaulay Salmon Hatchery, three miles west of downtown. From late June through October you can see them in the fish ladder through a viewing window and from above.

We love Eagle Beach where dozens of bald eagles can be seen, particularly between late June and early August. They come for the easy pickings with salmon swimming through the shallow streams on the flats. Located about 30 minutes north of Juneau, an exclusive private excursion with Alaska Luxury Tours can bring you there.

Seals and Sea Lions

seal lions battling

When you’re out on a whale watching boat tour, or any boat excursion, you’re bound to spot stellar sea lions. They’re everywhere, frequently seen on the buoys in Auke Bay or even lounging on the docks. Don Statter Harbor is a good place to look for harbor seals. Watch for their shiny heads to pop up, curiously having a look around.

Amalga Harbor, 12 miles north of Juneau along the Glacier Highway, is another great place for wildlife viewing. Enter Ernest Gruening State Park, where one of Alaska’s first senators had his summer home. From the boat ramp, you’ll walk along the driveway to his former residence. The path ends where Peterson creek spills into Lynn Canal. And, when the salmon are running it’s one of the best places on the planet for wildlife viewing. As the fish can only enter the creek when the tide is at its highest, they congregate in high numbers at its mouth. That attracts the sea lions, and even the occasional orca.

No matter which wildlife in Juneau, Alaska you’re hoping to see on your trip, Alaska Luxury Tours can help you make it happen while providing a luxurious, exclusive experience.