Winter scenes in Alaska


Alaska Scenes

1999 - 2011,
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Cow moose and calves

Wildlife in Alaska

Wildlife abounds in Alaska. Anchorage is probably the only city in the United States that has a moose problem; there are hundreds within the city limits. There has even been talk of declaring a bowhunting season for them in the city's Hillside suburb. Grizzly and black bears have been shot within the city in recent years, too.

Grizzly in Denali National ParkAlthough grizzlies are around -- one was shot not quite 20 years ago just a few blocks from downtown Anchorage -- they're more elusive than moose. Denali National Park and the MacNeil River State Sanctuary are two of the places where they're most easily seen by tourists. Access to the MacNeil River sanctuary, where they can be observed fishing for salmon, is restricted to holders of a limited number of permits that are issued in a drawing held each March. It's easier to get into Denali but visitors are less likely to get a closeup view of bears. The photo above, of a bear grazing on a slope several hundred yards away, was taken at Denali.

Black bears are around too. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists estimated in the spring of 2007 that about 100,000 of them make Alaska their home. Visitors are most likely to see them at a town dump or, in a fish camp or town in Bush Alaska, raiding a fish drying rack. Hunters in Prince William Sound use boats to look for them foraging along the beaches. People taking a Kenai Fjords day cruise may see one or more on a mountain slope. Black bears' habitat is forested areas but they may be encountered anywhere from alpine areas to sea level.

Caribou in Denali National ParkHaines, in Southeast Alaska, and Homer, on the Kenai Peninsula, have large populations of eagles in the winter. Haines has a bald eagle festival each November.

The state has hundreds of thousands of caribou that roam in several herds, the most controversial of which is the herd that roams the Arctic Slope range that is thought to hold huge undeveloped oil reserves. Another herd, the Western Arctic herd on the Seward Peninsula in Southwest Alaska, has about 500,000 caribou.

No telephoto lens was necessary to capture the caribou at left. In fact, even Vtech kidizoom cameras could be used to take pictures of it.They posed in the bed of a roadside stream for passengers on a Denali National Park tour bus.

Wildlife is easier to see at the park than is Mount McKinley, which often is shrouded in clouds.

There's plenty to see in and above the ocean, too. Federal biologists estimate there are 350 beluga whales in Cook Inlet. Passengers on tour boats in the Kenai Fjords National Park may see pods of killer whales or humpback whales, as well as seals, sea otters, cormorants, puffins, eagles and other birds. Several companies offering Kenai Fjords park tours can be found at the small boat harbor in Seward.


Just the Facts

About Sea Otters

Approximately 70,000 sea otters swim in the coastal waters of Alaska. That's estimated to be 90 percent of the world's population. About 41,000 are in Southwest Alaska; 8,700 around the Aleutian Islands. The population is in decline and the federal government listed them as threatened in 2005.

About Grizzly Bears

The terms "brown bear" and "grizzly bear" are used interchangeably to refer to this bear, the Ursus arctos. The biggest grizzlies are the ones found on Kodiak Island, where they can bulk up on the abundant salmon in the island's streams. They can be distinguished from other bears by their prominent shoulder hump. Adult males may weigh anywhere from 500 to 1,400 pounds. Altogether there are about 30,000 grizzlies in Alaska; that's 98 percent of the grizzly population in the United States.

About Caribou

Alaska has an estimated wild 900,000 caribou scattered across the state in 32 herds. There are also a few herds of domesticated caribou -- or reindeer -- on the Seward Peninsula in Southwest Alaska. The wild caribou are nomads, traveling as much as 3,000 miles in a year between their wintering and spring calving grounds.

About Eagles

Bald eagles and golden eagles are found in Alaska . Bald eagles can be observed along waterways and golden eagles in the Interior. There are an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 bald eagles in Alaska. About 125 nesting pairs of golden eagles have been identified in or near Denali National Park.

Other Wildlife

The list of wildlife to be observed in Alaska is long, ranging from animals and migratory birds (for example, 13,000 trumpeter swans nest in Alaska) found in the Lower 48 states to those seen only in the far north, such as polar bears. Alaska is home to more than 445 species of birds. As many as 140 million seabirds feed in Alaskan waters.

Alaska Department of Fish & Game
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Denali National Park & Preserve
Anchorage Daily News
American Eagle Foundation