Wildlife - Joost Daniels


Wildlife

This is a (by no means complete) list of some of the animals you might want to look for in Alaska.


Moose

You should be able to find a few of these if you drive around in Alaska. Unmistakable: large, dark brown. Young moose have a lighter brown color. Only the bulls have antlers. Moose like to hang out around water and highways, always be prepared to brake for moose! If you drive out of Anchorage in Northern direction on Highway 1, there are several spots just along the road where there always seem to be moose. 


Caribou (reindeer)

Not often spotted in South Alaska. More common in the North, where they roam the tundra in large herds. Much lighter color than moose, a lighter build as well. Both male and female have antlers, which they lose every year, but grows back bigger the next.


Musk ox

Also less common unless you cross the Arctic Circle. Unmistakably hairy. Smaller than you might expect despite their bulky appearance and large horns.


Dall sheep

Dall sheep look a lot like Mountain goats from a distance, but they are in fact sheep. Mostly white, the rams have horns. Live in groups. A common sight in Denali National Park and along the Seward Highway south of Anchorage. To find them there, keep one eye on the rocky cliffs opposite Turnagain Arm. But don't forget to look for Beluga's! (see below)


Grizzly (brown) bear

Grizzlies are larger than black bears and usually have a brown color. The bears in Denali are more blonde, because they seem to get more sunlight. Omnivores; eat berries but also fish and mammals. Really want to see a Grizzly? Try visiting Denali or Katmai.


Black bear

Most of the bears encountered in developed areas are black bears. They are generally less afraid of humans, and often check out dumpsters. Help keep them wild by storing your food properly!


Red fox

While the Arctic Fox is hardly seen below the Arctic Circle, the Red fox is regularly spotted in the lower regions of Alaska.


Grey wolf

Wolves can be remarkably shy and are not often seen. Go to the Alaska Zoo for a guaranteed sighting. You may be surprised how big they are.


Wolverine

Apparently roams throughout Alaska, but we haven't seen a wild one yet! Don't even have a picture of one in captivity, so Google for images. Looks like a mixture of badger, hyena and bear, about the size of a dog.


Porcupine

Another unmistakable animal. Very long spines. Often climbs trees.


California sea lion

The smaller sea lion species in Alaska, and can indeed also be seen in for example San Francisco. Playful and fast. Can be spotted in Kenai Fjords National Park, for example on a glacier / whale watching tour.


Steller sea lion

Biggest sea lion. Especially the males can be large. You will be able to tell sea lions apart from seals by their tiny ears (seals only have little ear openings in their heads), among others. Guaranteed sighting at Seward's SeaLife Centre, but also quite common on the whale watching cruises.


Harbor seal

As the name implies, can be spotted in many harbors. Look around in the Seward harbor and you will most likely find one. Ranges across the entire West coast of the US, so you can spot them elsewhere too.


Sea otter

Another commonly seen marine mammal. Spend almost their entire lives at sea, often floating on their backs. Again, on a whale watching tour you might see one within minutes after departing the harbor, because the tend to have their hangout spots they return to.


Dall's porpoise

Porpoises are small dolphins. The most common species in Alaska are the harbor porpoise and Dall's porpoise. The latter is the most fun to encounter. Black and white, often surfs on the boat's wake on whale watching tours out of Seward.


Beluga

Call us if you see one! A fairly rare sight. We have seen them in Turnagain Arm from the Seward highway, close to Beluga Point (wonder why it's called that). They probably chase the salmon upstream during upcoming tide and swim back when the water recedes. Unfortunately you do not generally see much of them, besides a blow and a small part of their white backs. Juvenile belugas are grey.


Orca

The orca or killer whale is one of the most exciting species you can encounter on a whale watching trip. They often show off with big jumps and are very visible with their large dorsal fins (especially the males) and black and white color. Sometimes come very close to the boat. Despite having a similar color pattern as Dall's porpoise, the fact that they are several times larger makes them easy to distinguish.


Humpback whale

We have never NOT seen one or multiple humpback whales on our whale watching tours. They sometimes jump, but very often display their impressive flukes when they dive. Easily recognized by the shape and color of their flukes, as well as their long, white pectoral fins.

Other whales that can be seen in Kenai Fjords NP include sei whales, minke whales, fin whales and grey whales. Your tour guide will be able to identify them for you. :-)


Bald eagle

Not bald, just has a distinct white head and large yellow beak. Juveniles may not have the white head yet. Most common near water. During our adventure week, you will almost certainly see them during rafting and at the launch sites, where they are attracted by the fish caught by fishermen.


Golden eagle

Large beak like the bald eagle, but with a smooth brown head instead. The juveniles of both eagle species may look more similar (check out the differences here). Again, good chance of spotting these large birds near the water and during our rafting adventure.


Ptarmigan

The ptarmigan is essentially a grouse, a ground bird like the quail. One of Kelsey's favorite stories about Alaska is the story of the name of the town called Chicken. Apparently when this town was established, the villagers wanted to call it after the Ptarmigan they saw everywhere. However, they could not agree on the spelling of the word (the p isn't really pronounced), so they decided to just call it Chicken.


Puffin (various species)

Multiple species of puffin fly and swim around over Alaskan waters. They all have one thing in common: their large, often colorful beak. The tufted puffin (pictured) is especially recognizable. They are about the size of a pigeon.


Loon

The size of a large duck or small goose, but with a fairly unique black and white pattern and way of flying. Also makes a peculiar sound (listen here).


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