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Wildlife - Animals in Alaska

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MAMMALS

We are blessed with a large variety of animals in Alaska. We have many mammals, including the "three bears;" The white Polar Bear, the Brown or Grizzly Bear and the Black Bear. Most of Alaska is considered bear country, or for campers and hikers, "beware" country.

Grizzly Bear in Denali Park Pic Caribou in Denali Park Pic

(photos 1996 Barbara Logan)
Grizzly Bear in Denali Park, Alaska, August 23, 1996
Caribou in Denali Park, Alaska, August 23, 1996
(Click on pictures for a larger view)

In 1928, 23 American Bison were transplanted to replace the wild herd that died out some 500 years ago. They number several hundred now. Musk Ox were also reintroduced to restore a species native to Alaska that was eliminated by hunters in 1865.

There are also Moose, Caribou, Reindeer, Mountain goats, Sitka black-tailed deer, Roosevelt Elk, Dall sheep, Wolves, Foxes, Wolverines, Coyotes, Lynx, Beavers, Marmots, Muskrats, Otters, Squirrels, Weasels, Hares, Bats, Martens, Lemmings, Mice, Pika, Porcupines, Shrews, Voles and Woodchucks, as well as the marine mammals which include several kinds of whales, dolphins, walrus, porpoise and seals. I have seen many of these mammals through the years, but mostly moose and beaver. (More about moose and beaver continues on the next two pages)

Arctic Ground Squirrel Pic Arctic Ground Squirrel Pic

(photos 1996 Barbara Logan)
Arctic Ground Squirrels
Denali Park, Alaska, August 23, 1996
(Click on pictures for a close-up view)

Red Squirrel at bird feeder Pic Red Squirrel at bird feeder Pic Red Squirrel at bird feeder Pic

(photos 2001 Barbara Logan)
Red Squirrel "caught in the act" at our birdfeeder, 2001
(Click on picture for a close-up view)

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BIRDS

We have at least 430 bird species in Alaska, according to the Anchorage Audobon Society. We have a lot of beautiful songbirds in Fairbanks. Some migrate South each winter, such as the American Robins, Dark-Eyed Juncos, several kinds of Sparrows, including the White Crowned Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow and American Tree Sparrow; Swallows and Warblers, Varied Thrush and Rusty Blackbird. Others such as the Chickadees, Redpolls and the occasional Downey Woodpecker visit our bird feeder throughout the winter. The Bohemian Waxwings stay in large flocks, feasting on berries and seeds they find in the trees. Also in the winter, huge Ravens, which are scavengers, perch on every light pole during the day, waiting for whatever they can find that is edible. They tear open trash bags regularly. Every night just before dusk they all fly north to a secret roost in the woods. Bird watchers who have seen it keep the location a secret. They don't want anyone to disturb the hundreds of birds that spend their winter nights there. We enjoy watching all the birds in the winter.

Young American Robin Pic Chickadee Pic

(photos 2001, 1997 Barbara Logan)
A young American Robin in our yard, July 3, 2001
Chickadee at bird feeder, October 2003
(Click on pictures for a close-up view)

Musical Notes Pic Listen to an American Robin sing.

The state bird, shown below, is the Willow Ptarmigan, a small Arctic grouse that lives among willows on the open tundra and muskeg. It's feathers change from brown in summer to white in winter, with feathers covering the entire lower leg and foot. (You can see the "feathery" leg on the close-up of the Summer Ptarmigan picture; look for the bird in the back, right of center.)

Willow Ptarmigan Summer Pic Willow Ptarmigan Winter Pic

(photos 1996, 2001 Barbara Logan)
Willow Ptarmigan in Denali Park, Alaska, August 23, 1996
Willow Ptarmigan in neighbor's yard, Fairbanks, Alaska, February 11, 2001
(Click on pictures for a close-up view)

Thousands of birds migrate to Alaska each spring to breed, coming from great distances. Each April the Canada geese fill the skies on their way north, along with cranes, swans and several species of ducks and other geese. The largest gathering of Bald eagles in the world takes place each winter, at a site along the Chilkat River near Haines. We see a great variety of birds right here in the Tanana Valley. One winter a young Goshawk that didn't migrate south visited our deck many times to catch and eat wild pigeons. There are several owls in the area also.

Canada Geese Pic

(photo 2000 Barbara Logan)
Canada Geese at Creamer's Field, April 2000
(Click on picture for a larger view)

Great Horned Owl PicBoreal Owl Pic

(photo 2000 Barbara Logan)
Great Horned Owl and Boreal Owl in Fairbanks, Alaska, October 2002
The largest and smallest owls commonly seen in Interior Alaska.
These two owls are injured and live in a rehabilitation center.
(Click on pictures for a larger view)

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REPTILES and AMPHIBIANS

For all practical purposes, reptiles are not found in Alaska, with, of course, the exception of those kept in captivity and two Marine Turtles (Leatherback and Green Sea Turtles) in the Pacific Ocean. The northern limits of North American reptilian species is determined by the latitude at which their embryos fail to develop during one summer. That is also true of amphibians.

As far as amphibians in Alaska, there are only six species:

  • Rough-skinned Newt
  • Long-toed Salamander
  • North-western Salamander
  • Boreal Toad
  • Spotted Frog
  • Wood Frog

The Wood Frog is found widespread throughout the state. The others are found primarily in southeastern Alaska. Wood Frogs survive even when totally frozen in the ground. I finally got some pictures of Wood Frogs. These were in a wetland pond south of Fairbanks International Airport on May 6, 2008. They were singing very loudly!

Wood Frog Pic

Wood Frogs Pic

(photos 2008 Barbara Logan)

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FISH

There are several kinds of fish in Alaska. Most often you hear about the Salmon and Halibut, but there are other fish such as Arctic Char, Arctic Grayling, Burbot, Dolly Varden, Trout and Whitefish, just to name a few. The Salmon are the most commercially caught fish, as well as being important food for residents who live a subsistence lifestyle. The King Salmon was chosen as the state fish, because of it's importance to the subsistence and commercial fisheries. There are five kinds of Salmon: King, Red, Silver, Pink and Chum. We have seen the pinks near Valdez, going up river to spawn. Pinks are a small salmon, about 18 inches long and weighing about two pounds.

Pink Salmon Pic

(photo 1994 Barbara Logan)
Pink Salmon in a stream near Valdez, Alaska July 1994
(Click on picture for a larger view)

In the picture above are Pink Salmon, mostly female, dark green with black spots. There is one male in the upper right, with brown and gray color. We have Kings in the Chena River that have returned to spawn from the Bering Sea, coming up the Yukon and Tanana Rivers several hundred miles to the Chena.

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INSECTS AND SPIDERS

I have to mention our number one insect - the mosquito. There are 25 to 40 species of mosquitoes found in Alaska. The females of all species feed on the blood of mammals and birds, which includes humans. The most serious infestations occur in moist areas of slow-moving or standing water of the type found in the fields, bogs and forests of interior Alaska. The mosquito is jokingly called the state bird, due to some very large "snow" mosquitoes that come out early in the spring after surviving the winter in some nook or cranny. We have several other kinds of insects, from beautiful butterflies to huge bumblebees, grasshoppers to beetles and many ants, flies and wasps. We also have many kinds of spiders.

(Click on pictures for a close-up view)

Stink Bug on Delphinium leaf Pic Hoverfly near rose Pic Bumblebee on toadflax Pic Grasshopper on flower Pic
Stink BugHoverflyBumblebeeGrasshopper
Tiny Butterfly Pic Moth Pic White Moth Pic Shiny Beetle on my car Pic
Tiny ButterflyMothWhite MothBeetle
Swallowtail Butterfly Pic Lacewing Pic Gray Moth Pic Mourning Cloak Butterfly Pic
Swallowtail ButterflyLacewingGray MothMourning CLoak Butterfly
Longhorn Beetle Pic Hoverfly on Yarrow Pic Spider with raspberries Pic Paper Wasp Pic
Longhorn BeetleHoverflyLady BugPaper Wasp
Swallowtail Butterfly Pic Daddy Long Legs Spider on Chickweed Pic Raspberry Spider Pic Golden Spider Pic
CaterpillarDaddy Long LegsRasberry SpiderGolden Spider

(photos 2001-2003 Barbara Logan)

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This page was last updated 23 May 2008 Barbara Logan
URL is http://freepages.family.rootsweb.com/~soakbear/wildlife.htm