Alaska life hack: McNeil River bear-watching raffle


The deadline to purchase tickets for the highly anticipated McNeil River State Game Sanctuary Raffle is April 7 at 11:59 p.m. Alaska time.

Organized jointly by the Alaska Zoo and the International Association for Bear Research, the raffle aims to raise funds for wildlife conservation initiatives while offering lucky winners an unforgettable experience.

As of this writing, 8,311 tickets have been sold to 1,546 purchasers. Each ticket is $20.

The raffle presents an opportunity for patrons to delve into the heart of Alaska’s wilderness. Winners will be drawn on Monday, April 8.

The prize package includes two permits for bear viewing during M Block, from July 25-28, 2024, granting unparalleled access to observe Alaska grizzlies. Additionally, winners will get a two-night stay in a local Homer hotel and airfare for two with Kachemak Air Service to and from the sanctuary.

Beluga Air outdoor gear packages are also included for two persons so that winners will be adequately prepared for the unpredictable weather.

Those residing outside the United States and Canada who wish to participate should direct contact with IBA via email at [email protected]. Other inquiries or concerns regarding the raffle can be addressed by reaching out to [email protected].

All contributions will directly support vital wildlife conservation efforts. Funds raised through the raffle will bolster the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s non-game species conservation initiatives, as well as contribute to bear research, conservation, and awareness efforts led by the Alaska Zoo and IBA.

Fish and Game manages visitor numbers and activities in the sanctuary. The access permit program was developed after many years of excessive and uncontrolled public use of the area that often put people and bears in danger, the Department says. The goal of the access permit program is to provide the public with an opportunity to view and photograph bears while minimizing their impacts to bears and wildlife habitats. The program limits the number of people who may be present at McNeil River Falls (or the other viewing locations) to no more than 10 individuals between June 7 and August 25.

No one has ever been injured by a bear at McNeil River and since the permit program was initiated, no bears have been killed by visitors who felt threatened.

“To maintain this record, visitor activities at the sanctuary are closely managed and evaluated. However, it is always important to remember that the McNeil bears are wild animals with all the potential for aggressive behavior, so visitors are accompanied by armed department staff. Visitors are encouraged to maintain respect of the brown bear’s home, follow the rules of the sanctuary and your guide, and to have a truly memorable experience,” Fish and Game says on its website page devoted to the McNeil River State Game Sanctuary and Refuge.


  1. If they could arrange for our legislators to play with the bears as they fish, I would definitely buy tickets.

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