Alaska Wildlife Viewing
Visitors travel to Alaska for many reasons -- to see Mt. Denali, our massive glaciers, and of course, Alaska Wildlife. After all, "The Great Land” has the largest population of Bald Eagles, Brown Bears, and Black Bears in the world. The state has 47 State and National Parks that offer great viewing opportunities for beautiful scenery and wildlife. Denali National Park, in interior Alaska, affords great viewing of almost all Alaska wildlife. Be sure to check out our Denali Park wildlife bus tours.
The Brown Bear can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and range in color from blonde to dark brown depending on their habitat. Coastal Brown Bears are referred to as the Brown Bear because of their dark brown coat. Living within 60 miles of Alaska’s coast, their color is due in part to a diet of salmon, which are rich in oils and minerals. The interior Alaska Brown Bear, also known as the Grizzly Bear, is usually a light cinnamon or blonde color and are smaller in stature as they do not have access to the rich oily diet of coastal bears. Their diet consists mostly of berries and small rodents. Be sure to check out our Alaska bear viewing tours.
Over 1 million Caribou inhabit Alaska, making approximately 32 herds. They are the only member of the deer family in which both sexes grow antlers. Males range from 350-400 pounds and females range from 175-225 pounds. They have wide concave hooves that support the animal in the snow and also act as a paddle for swimming. Caribou are known to travel as far as 3,000 miles in a year back and forth to various eating grounds. This is further than any other land mammal. Denali National Park is very popular for viewing most Alaska wildlife including Caribou.
Dall Sheep are mostly found in high country and they inhabit many mountain ranges throughout Alaska. Their diet consists mostly of plants and shrubs, but during winter months when plants are scarce they will sometimes visit mineral licks. Male sheep, also known as rams, live in bands and don’t normally associate with the Females, or Ewes, except during mating season. Rams are distinguished by their large curling horns. The age of a ram can be determined by the length of their horns. Ewes’ horns are much smaller, about the size of a three year old ram’s. The Seward Highway, just south of Anchorage, offers many lookout points designed for viewing of these animals.
The Bald Eagle and its smaller cousin the Golden Eagle are some of Alaska’s most magnificent birds of prey. The Bald Eagle lives near Alaska’s waterways and feeds mostly on salmon. Their keen eyesight allows them to see fish from up to a mile away. They weigh almost 15 pounds and have a wing span of up to 7 feet. The Golden Eagle lives mostly in interior Alaska and feeds on small ground animals such as squirrels, shrews and rabbits. They weigh 8-12 pounds and have a wing span of 6-7 feet. Eagles mate for life and will generally return to the same nest each spring. Alaska’s population of eagles is the largest in the nation at more than 30,000 birds. They have been sighted in many areas throughout Alaska.
Humpback Whales are generally not found in cooler waters but due to the abundance in food can be seen in Alaska’s waters year round. Most humpbacks migrate to Hawaii during the winter to have their young. Male Humpback whales can weigh up to 35 tons. The females are generally around 25 tons. Humpbacks feed by taking in large amounts of water then pushing it back out through baleen plates which catch their food, effectively “straining” their meals. There were nearly 23,000 whales taken from northern waters before 1966 when whaling was banned. Today there are roughly 1,000-1,200 Humpback Whales in existence. They can be seen in many areas of southeast and south-central Alaska.
One of the most recognizable members of Alaskan wildlife, Moose are the largest members of the deer family with the males weighing in at 1200-1600 pounds and the females at 800-1300 pounds. Most of their herbivore diet consists of roots and tubers, birch bark, and willow, with the warmer summer months also offering water plants from shallow ponds. Usually found in forested areas with easy access to aquatic plant life, moose are great swimmers and can run as fast as 35mph. Primarily hunted by humans, wolves, and bears, though due to their size they are rarely susceptible to predation.
The average life span of a moose is 8-12 years.
The Horned Puffin and the Tufted Puffin are the two types of Puffins found in Alaska. Generally the Horned Puffin can be found in areas around Southcentral Alaska, the Northern Aleutian Chain, and Southeast Alaska. It is commonly recognized by its large white breast, yellow beak, orange feet, and during the summer months, small black horns over its eyes. The Tufted Puffin is similar in appearance, but has tufts of feathers that curl back from each side of its head. Both species can be found in the open seas of Alaska and generally only go near land to nest. During nesting they burrow 3-4 feet below the surface of cliff walls or steep slopes. Puffins can dive underwater for up to one minute. Swimming is much like flying for them as they use their wings to propel them forward and feet like rudders to steer them back and forth. They can be seen on many cruises in Kenai Fjords National Park along with other abundant Alaska marine wildlife.
Stellar Sea Lions can be found in the North Pacific Waters from California to Russia. They are the largest member of the eared seal family, males weighing 1200 pounds and females less than half of that. They normally gather on well defined-traditionally used rookeries for breeding and to have their pups. Alaska is home to over 75% of the world’s sea lion population.
Wolves cover more than 85% of Alaska. They can adapt to many different habitats from rain forest to barren tundra. They range in color from black to white including most colors of gray and tan. They range in size from the females around 80-100 pounds to the males weighing 85-145 pounds.Wolves like other members of Alaska wildlife mate for life and live in packs that include parents and pups. Wolves can be seen in large river beds and some areas of tundra. There are several pairs that live within Denali Park and can occasionally be seen by guests of the park.
At Alaska Tour & Travel we are here to help you plan your vacation to maximize your Alaska wildlife viewing. Give us a call today at (800) 208-0200.