Skip to Content

Animals and Wildlife in Alaska: A Complete Guide

alaska

Eager to dive into the captivating world of Alaskan animals and wildlife? Join us as we whisk you on a global adventure through the state’s rich tapestry of flora and fauna. As you journey through this wild frontier, you’ll uncover the extraordinary diversity of species unique to Alaska. Notably, the Alaska Peninsula serves as a vital haven for both fish and wildlife, making it an ecological wonderland waiting to be explored.

Are you captivated yet? Read on or jump to your favorite headline…

Key points

CategoryKey Points
Alaska Wildlife Attractions– Alaska is a must-visit destination for wildlife enthusiasts.
– Bald eagles, moose, and salmon are commonly found in the state.
– Guided tours in national parks and wildlife refuges offer opportunities to see moose, caribou, otters, whales, and more.
– Alaska offers a wide variety of wildlife viewing experiences.
Best Alaska Wildlife Viewing Spots– Point Woronzof Road
– Kincaid Park
– Campbell Creek Estuary
– Potter Marsh
– Eagle River Nature Center
– Turnagain Arm
– Ship Creek
Alaska Wildlife: Mammals– Various bear species (brown, black, polar, glacier)
– Caribou
– Moose
– Mountain goats
– Bison
– Dall sheep
– Wolves
– Arctic fox
Alaska Wildlife: Marine Life– Orcas, humpback whales, fin whales, gray whales, etc.
– Salmon runs in rivers and streams
– Sea otters
Alaska Wildlife: Birds– Owls (snowy, northern hawk, boreal, grey great owls)
– Puffins
– Gyrfalcon
– Bald eagles
Alaska Wildlife: National Parks– Alaska has 17 national park units and 16 national wildlife refuges.
– Klondike Gold Rush National Park is the most visited national park unit in the state.
Alaska Wildlife Operators– Tour and conservation companies offer wildlife and nature encounters.
– Notable operators include Adventure Kodiak bear tours, Seaward wildlife tours, Alaska Wildlife Adventures, and the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.

Alaska wildlife attractions

For wildlife enthusiasts, Alaska stands out as a top destination, offering a breathtaking array of wildlife encounters. From the grand gatherings of bald eagles to moose causing traffic jams and rivers filled with millions of spawning salmon, the state provides unparalleled opportunities for wildlife observation. Guided tours through Alaska’s national parks and wildlife refuges offer a chance to marvel at the natural beauty and witness a diverse range of species, including moose, caribou, otters, whales, and porpoises. Regardless of the chosen region for exploration, Alaska promises abundant encounters with expansive and varied wildlife.

Here are some of the premier spots for wildlife viewing in Alaska:

  1. Point Woronzof Road: Tucked away on the city’s western edge, this secluded area is a haven for moose, offering a serene escape often overlooked by many.
  2. Kincaid Park: A stunning park providing excellent opportunities for wildlife sightings, with moose and various local fauna.
  3. Campbell Creek Estuary: Explore this estuary to witness a rich variety of wildlife, including birds and marine life.
  4. Potter Marsh: Renowned for birdwatching, Potter Marsh is home to numerous bird species, making it a must-visit for bird enthusiasts.
  5. Eagle River Nature Center: Immerse yourself in nature at this center, offering glimpses of wildlife such as eagles and bears.
  6. Turnagain Arm: A scenic area with diverse wildlife, including beluga whales, Dall sheep, and eagles.
  7. Ship Creek: Famous for salmon fishing, Ship Creek is also a location where bears can be spotted during the salmon run.

Exploring these locales ensures an unforgettable wildlife experience amidst the stunning landscapes of Alaska.

Alaska wildlife: Mammals

Bears

Alaska boasts four distinct types of bears: the Brown bear (grizzly), Polar bear, Black bear, and Glacier bear. For visitors seeking bear-viewing opportunities, Alaska provides numerous options. Among the most favored locations is Denali National Park, renowned for offering a glimpse into the natural habitat of bears.

Brown/ Grizly Bear

Brown bears, also known as grizzlies, occur throughout Alaska except on islands south of Frederick Sound in southeast Alaska, west of Unimak in the Aleutian Chain, and on Bering Sea islands.

Black Bear

Black bears (Ursus americanus) are the most abundant and widely distributed of the three species of North American bears. An estimated 100,000 black bears inhabit Alaska. The black bear is the smallest of the North American bears.

Black bear

Kodiak Bear

The Kodiak bear, also known as the Kodiak brown bear, is sometimes the “Alaskan brown bear.” The Kodiak bear is similar to the other brown bear subspecies, such as the mainland grizzly bear.

Polar Bear

@Alan Wilson

Polar bears thrive in regions near coastlines and the southern edge of the polar ice pack. In Alaska, these majestic creatures can be found in the Far North and Western Arctic areas, primarily on the frozen sea. However, there are occasions when polar bears venture onto land, especially in areas near towns such as Barrow and Kotzebue. Alaska offers a unique opportunity to witness these iconic bears in their natural habitat, highlighting their adaptability to both icy expanses and terrestrial surroundings.

Caribou

caribou
@Alexandre Buisse

Alaska is primarily home to barren-ground subspecies of caribou, with one small herd of woodland caribou known as the Chisana herd. The Chisana herd migrates into Canada, particularly in the Wrangell-St. Elias area of Southcentral Alaska. Canada, on the other hand, has three subspecies of caribou: Peary, woodland, and barren-ground. In Alaska, caribou are dispersed across 32 herds or populations.

Moose

@Tony Hisgett

About 175,000 to 200,000 moose are widely distributed throughout Alaska. In Alaskamoose live in a large area ranging from the Stikine River in Southeast Alaska to the Colville River on the Arctic Slope.

Mountain Goat

Currently, in Alaska, mountain goats are found throughout the southeastern Panhandle and extend north and west along the coastal mountains to Cook Inlet. Additionally, their range reaches into the Talkeetna Mountains, nearly reaching Denali National Park. It is estimated that 3,600 to 4,600 mountain goats inhabit the Kenai Peninsula.

Bison

The plains bison (Bison bison bison) is the smaller of the two subspecies of American bison found in North America, and it is an introduced species in Alaska rather than native. In 1928, 23 plains bison were relocated from the National Bison Range in Montana to the Delta River area in Alaska’s Interior.

Dall sheep

Dall Sheep inhabit the mountain ranges of Alaska. These striking white creatures are most notable for the massive curled horns of the males. Females, known as ewes, also carry horns, but theirs are shorter, more slender, and slightly curved.

Wolves


Alaska is home to an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 wolves, and they have never been threatened or endangered in the state. The wolves’ food habits often conflict with humans, particularly hunters of big game animals in various parts of the world.

Wolves can be found throughout mainland Alaska, on Unimak Island in the Aleutians, and all major islands along the Inside Passage, except the Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof islands. This extensive range covers about 85 percent of Alaska’s 586,000 square-mile area.

The Arctic fox


Arctic foxes in Alaska engage in seasonal migration, moving from their fall breeding grounds to coastal regions and returning in late winter or early spring. Noteworthy migrations have been documented in Canada, Russia, and the Scandinavian peninsula, potentially triggered by significant declines in the food resources.

Currently, the Arctic fox inhabits treeless coastal zones in Alaska, spanning from the Aleutian Islands north to Point Barrow and eastward to the Canadian border. They exhibit a preference for tundra habitats, typically near rocky shores, and are observed venturing onto pack ice during the winter season.

Alaska wildlife: Marine life

Orcas and whales

Initially, Killer whales are observable in southeast Alaska from early May to early June, with sightings being more sporadic from June through September. They can be encountered in Resurrection Bay near Seward and across Southeast Alaska, with the highest concentration found near Juneau and Ketchikan.

In the second instance, Alaska is home to various whale species that either reside in or migrate through its coastal waters. Specifically, in the Kenai Fjords National Park region, Humpback, orca (killer whale), fin whale, and gray whale are frequently sighted. However, fortunate explorers might also catch a glimpse of blue, sperm, and minke whales in other parts of Alaska.

Whales can be seen throughout Alaska’s coastal waters—from the Gulf of Alaska in the south to the eastern Bering Sea and the northern Beaufort Sea. This is especially true during the prime summer season.

Salmon

Massive salmon runs return to Anchorage area rivers and streams each summer. Additionally, this is where you may encounter five species of Alaska salmon: king (or chinook), red (sockeye), pink (humpys), silver (coho), and chum (sometimes called dog).

Best locations to witness the salmon run in Alaska:

  • Wrangell St. Elias National Park.
  • Glacier Bay National Park.
  • Katmai National Park.
  • Gates of the Arctic National Park.
  • Kobuk Valley National Park.

Sea otters and beavers

Firstly, sea otters are seen from the Aleutian Islands, across the Kenai Peninsula and the Gulf of Alaska, south to the Inside Passage, and even down to British Columbia and Washington state. They stick together in small communities and don’t range far unless food becomes scarce.

Sea otters are seen from the Aleutian Islands, across the Kenai Peninsula and the Gulf of Alaska, south to the Inside Passage, and even down to British Columbia and Washington state.

Alaska Wildlife: Birds

Hundreds of bird species inhabit Alaska, particularly in coastal regions. Some of the more notable birds in Alaska include:

Owls

Presently, snowy, northern hawk, boreal, and grey great owls are found throughout Alaska and are a privilege to witness!

In fact, there are as many as ten species of owls in Alaska, inhabiting landscapes as diverse as the windblown, treeless tundra of the Arctic, the deep, still, boreal forest of the Interior, and the moss-draped rainforest of the Southeast.

Puffins

In Alaskapuffins breed on coastal islands and headlands from Forrester Island in southeastern Alaska to Cape Lisburne on the Chukchi Sea Coast. Horned puffins are more prevalent farther north than tufted puffins

In Alaskapuffins breed on coastal islands and headlands from Forrester Island in southeastern Alaska to Cape Lisburne on the Chukchi Sea Coast. Horned puffins are more prevalent farther north than tufted puffins.

Gyrfalcon

To begin with, the Gyrfalcon not only survives but thrives in some of the most severe climates on Earth. Secondly, this inhabitant of mountains and the high Arctic tundra is a circumpolar species, existing across the North Pole region. Thirdly, it establishes nests in the Arctic and subarctic regions of North America, Europe, Asia, Greenland, and Iceland.

Currently, the gyrfalcon is present in open landscapes, tundra, and mountains across much of Alaska, choosing rocky ledges for nesting. Breeding pairs eschew the construction of nests, often utilizing bare cliff ledges or repurposing abandoned nests, notably those of golden eagles and common ravens.

Bald eagle

Currently, Alaska boasts the most extensive population of bald eagles in the United States, numbering around 30,000 birds. Furthermore, bald eagles are frequently spotted along Alaska’s coastline, offshore islands, and inland lakes and rivers. While the majority of bald eagles spend the winter in southern Alaska, some individuals migrate out of the state during colder months.

The Chilkat Valley serves as the year-round residence for a community of 200 to 400 eagles, with over 80 eagle nests documented within the preserve.

Alaska Wildlife: National parks

@Paxson Woelber

To start, the possibilities may appear boundless, encompassing 17 national park units and 16 national wildlife refuges. Fortunately, Anchorage serves as the hub, offering numerous avenues to explore these parks.

According to a recent report from the National Park Service, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park emerges as the most frequented national park unit in Alaska, drawing 912,350 visitors last year. This figure is surprisingly almost double the 587,400 visitors to the runner-up, Denali, and surpasses the 520,170 who explored Glacier Bay.

While the national parks are truly remarkable, don’t feel you’re missing out on the Alaskan experience if you can’t visit them. Many preserves, public lands, and state parks provide equally untamed spaces and breathtaking vistas.

For details on all national parks, please refer to the provided link.

Alaska wildlife: Operators

We have found some of the best and most highly rated tour and conservation companies for different, awe-inspiring wildlife and nature encounters. Take a look!

Alaska Wildlife Guide for incredible and tailored tours from the arctic circle to the intricacies of Alaskan culture and heritage. Especially specializing in Summer, Winter, and Northern Lights tours!

Adventure Kodiak bear tours and cruises offer unique access to nature enthusiasts and animal ( especially bear) lovers.

Seaward wildlife tours offer encounters with the many marine animals that visit Alaska on migration each year. Additionally, from whales to Orcas, birds, and beautiful landscapes from the ocean perspective. Small and personalized tours.

Alaska Wildlife Adventures excites foreigners who fall in love with Alaska through mountainous adventures and more!

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: Visit orphaned and rehabilitated wildlife close up and personal, and by doing so, contribute to the conservation and protection of other animals.

Summary of Alaska Animals and Wildlife

YouTube video

Finally, Alaska is known for its vast and seemingly never-ending natural attractions, home to diverse wildlife groups. We highly recommend this state to any nature lovers across the globe.

If you enjoyed this blog, you might be interested in blogs about the US in general or about Wildlife in New York.

Latest posts by Jan Otte (see all)