Alaska is one of the most untouched, wildlife-rich areas in the United States. No matter when you travel there, you are sure to see abundant wildlife, likely some kinds you have never had the opportunity to see in person. In Alaska’s parks, you can view nature up close and untamed, as the National Park Service intends in its mission for conservation. There are seemingly endless reasons to visit Alaska, but the wildlife has to be one of the biggest motivators for many animal lovers.
Dall sheep live in the Alaskan and Canadian mountain ranges and are often quite noticeable from far away due to their pure-white coats. If you venture out on a 2022 Alaska cruise, make sure to look closely at the mountains. These stunning animals look very similar to bighorn sheep with the large, curled horns, except that the horns of the Dall sheep are longer and thinner.
Moose is one of the favorite animals for wildlife lovers traveling in Alaska. These enormous beasts live mainly in the forests with water bodies nearby. You will probably notice them grazing on grasses and other types of vegetation. They migrate seasonally in the warmer months, but they remain in their territory during the winter.
Alaska is home to several types of bears: brown bears, grizzly bears, black bears and polar bears.
- Brown bears and grizzly bears are part of the same species. However, people usually refer to the coastal bears as brown bears. These brown bears tend to be larger than grizzly bears simply because they typically have a more extensive, easier-to-catch supply of food on the coast (fish and other seafood) than in the interior where the grizzlies live. Most of the parks in Alaska provide great opportunities to see brown bears or grizzlies in their natural habitats.
- Black bears are North America’s smallest variety of bears. They are not always black in color, though; in addition to a black coat, you may see brown, reddish-brown, gray or even white.
- Polar bears live most of their life around the sea ice. Polar bears are actually regarded as marine mammals because of their love of icy water and their excellent swimming skills. While Alaska has polar bear inhabitants, you aren’t as likely to see them in parks as you are the other bear species.
Muskoxen are huge shaggy oxen that live in Alaska’s tundra. They spend the spring gorging on vegetation like grass shoots, willow leaves, tussocks, lichen, sedges and flowers. They must eat a lot to prepare for the harsh snow-covered winter, although they are skilled at finding and digging through the snow for food. If you see muskoxen while on your travels, you will notice they are in large herds rather than roaming individually. They prefer to stick together for social interaction and safety.
Wolves play an important part in Alaska’s wildlife conservation effort. Researchers estimate the wolf population to currently be between 7,000 and 11,000. They rely on many different types of prey, so the wolves’ survival depends on a healthy ecosystem. Wolves are known to sometimes travel huge stretches. You are likely to catch sight of one of these beautiful creatures when you are in an Alaska park, such as Denali National Park and Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. Both of these sites have consistently monitored the wolf population longer than anywhere globally.
Alaska has an estimated population of approximately 750,000 caribou. Research has shown that Alaska currently has 32 herds. These large animals migrate hundreds of miles (up to 50 miles per day) with the seasonal weather shifts and changes in food availability. They move from the forests in the winter to the tundra in the spring. You are very likely to see these beautiful animals on your Alaska vacation.
This is only a small selection of all the wildlife that call Alaska home. With everything this fascinating state offers, you won’t be disappointed. Begin planning an Alaska vacation today.