Alaskan Wildlife

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Muskox (Ovibos moschatus)

Muskox in the arctic

At the close of the last ice age, muskoxen were found across northern Europe, Asia, Greenland and North America, including Alaska. By the mid-1800s, muskox had disappeared from Europe and Asia. By the 1920s, muskox had also disappeared from Alaska, with the only remaining animals being found in east Greenland and Arctic Canada. International concern over impending extinction of this animal led to an effort to restore a population in Alaska. In 1930, 34 muskox were captured in East Greenland and brought to Fairbanks. This group was then transferred to Nunivak Island, a large island in the Bering Sea. The muskoxen thrived there and, by 1968, the herd had grown to 750 animals. Muskox from the Nunivak herd were later translocated to establish new herds on the Seward Peninsula, on Cape Thompson and Nelson Islands, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and on Wrangel Island and the Taimyr Peninsula in Russia. By 2000, almost 4,000 muskoxen existed in Alaska.

Dall Sheep (ovis dalli dalli)

 Dall sheep are found in the Kenai Mountains, the Tok area, the Chugach Mountains, Mentasta, Nutzotin, and northern Wrangell Mountains, and the Delta Controlled Use Area; also on the north side of the Alaska Range east of the Nenana River, west of the Delta River, and south of the Tanana River; in Tanana Hills, in the White Mountains area, and in the Central and Eastern Brooks Range.Dall sheep are found in relatively dry country and frequent a special combination of open alpine ridges, meadows, and steep slopes with extremely rugged escape terrain in the immediate vicinity. They use ridges, meadows, and steep slopes for feeding and resting. When danger approaches they flee to the rocks and crags to elude pursuers. They are generally high country animals but sometimes occur in Alaska in rocky gorges below timberline.

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

By 1963, there were only 417 known breeding pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. In Missouri, all of the nesting bald eagles had disappeared. Eventually, the bird was declared endangered in 43 states and threatened in five others. Then the tide turned. In 1967, the bald eagle was officially declared an endangered species (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act). A ban on DDT -- together with wetland restoration projects and bans on the hunting of bald eagles -- helped the birds make a slow comeback. By the mid-1990s, they had made such a significant recovery that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service upgraded their federal status in the lower 48 states to threatened. "IUCN" now lists the species as common.

Caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti)


The shedding of velvet (the fur covering on antlers) in late August and early September by large bulls marks the approach of the rutting (breeding) season and the start of fall migration. Mature bulls frequently have more than three inches of fat on the back and rump, which is used to provide energy needed during the rut. The necks of adult bull caribou swell enormously in September due to the natural production of steroid hormones like testosterone. Fighting begins in early September and becomes more frequent as the rut approaches at the end of the month. For the Western Arctic Herd, bulls spar during September but actual rut, marked by serious fighting and breeding, occurs during mid to late October. Rut must occur during September for more southerly herds based on their calving dates. Most fights between bulls are brief bouts, but violent fights occur, and many bulls are seriously injured or killed during the rut. Many injured or exhausted bulls are killed by wolves and bears after the rut. Unlike many other members of the deer family, bull caribou do not control a harem of cows. Instead, they control a space around themselves, and prevent other bulls from breeding females within their space. The largest bulls shed their antlers in late October, but small bulls and non-pregnant cows do not shed their antlers until April. Pregnant females usually retain their antlers until calves are born in late May or early June. 

Moose (Alces alces)


Alces alces is the largest member of the deer family. The Alaska-Yukon  race (Alces alces gigas) is the largest of all of these creatures. Adult moose can range in size from 800 pounds (small adult female) to1,600 pounds (large adult male), and they can be up to almost 6 feet tall. Moose can range in color from golden brown to almost black, depending on the season and the age of the animal. Newborn calves have a red-brown coat that fades to a light rust color within a few weeks. By late summer, the calves have shed this coat and grown one that is similar in texture and color to that of adults.   Moose are often easily recognized by their antlers, carried only by the males. These bony protrusions form within the first year, and are produced every summer after that. Trophy class bulls are found throughout Alaska, but the largest come from the western portion of the state. The largest sized antlers are usually produced when bulls are 10 - 12 years old, but bulls can reach trophy size as young as 6 years of age. In the wild, moose rarely live more than 16 years. 

Brown Bear (Ursus arctos)


In the winter when food is unavailable or scarce, most brown bears enter dens and sleep through the winter. Although this is not true hibernation, their body temperatures, heart rate, and other metabolic rates are drastically reduced. While in the den they do not eat, drink, urinate or defecate. Pregnant females are usually the first to enter dens in the fall. These females, with their newborn cubs, are the last to exit dens. Adult males, on the other hand, enter dens later and emerge earlier than most other bears. In northern areas, bears may spend up to 8 months in dens, while in areas with relatively mild winters, such as Kodiak, some male bears stay active all winter. Brown bears have an exceptionally acute sense of smell, exceeding that of dogs. Contrary to popular belief, bears are not nearsighted. Their eyesight and hearing are comparable to humans. They can run in short bursts up to 40 mph (64 kph) and are excellent swimmers. By all indications, bears are extremely intelligent and most have individual personalities. 

The American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

The American Black Bear

The American black bear (Ursus americanus) is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most widely distributed bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in search of food. Sometimes they become attracted to human communities because of the immediate availability of food. The American black bear is the world's most common bear species

Sitka Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis)

The Sitka deer or Sitka black-tailed deer , is a subspecies of mule deer, similar to the Columbian blacktail Their name originates from Sitka, Alaska, Weighing in on average between 48 and 90 kg (106 and 198 lb), Sitka deer are characteristically smaller than other subspecies of mule deer. Reddish-brown in the summer, their coats darken to a gray-brown in mid- to late August. They are also good swimmers, and can occasionally be seen crossing deep channels between islands. Their average lifespan is about 10 years, but a few are known to have attained an age of 15. 

Sockeye Salmon

Spruce Grouse

Spruce Grouse

The Red Fox

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If you enjoyed reading about our wonderful Alaskan wildlife and would like to know more, press the button below to read detailed profiles via Alaska department of fish and game including harvest and viewing opportunities and basic biology. 

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