Wildlife enthusiast Drew Hamilton had his camera at the ready when a big brown bear came lumbering up beside him.
Hamilton, a technician with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, shot the footage in the state’s McNeil River State Game Sanctuary, a popular attraction for bear watchers during summer. As many as 74 bears have been observed at one time, milling around the river's glacial waters.
A video uploaded to YouTube on Sunday shows how one curious bruin waddled its way up toward the viewing area to share a peaceful moment with Hamilton.
Strict protections are in place to preserve the 322-square-kilometre sanctuary. Permits to access the area are awarded through a lottery, and bear-viewing areas are only open during specified time periods.
But the trip isn't for the faint of heart: it takes a small trek to get to prime vantage points. According to the department of game and fish:
The 4-mile round-trip hike to the falls is not particularly hazardous, but it does involve slogging across mud flats. It can be strenuous for those who are not in good physical condition. There are no age restrictions for visiting the sanctuary, but we do NOT recommend bringing young children. A typical day at the falls involves 6-8 hours of confinement on a 10' by 10' gravel viewing pad. If you bring a child and it becomes necessary for department personnel to return you and your child to camp, all permit holders will have to return with you, and only one trip is made per day. No permit holder is allowed to move through the sanctuary or remain at the viewing site without a department personnel guide.
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