Finding wildlife in the winter can be exciting and easier than you may think. The winter landscape makes it easy to observe animals that would otherwise hide amongst leafed-out trees during spring and summer months. Fresh snow also provides opportunities to spot fresh wildlife tracks. Check your knowledge of Alaska’s wildlife and work on your tracking skills with this quiz. Keep an eye out for animals such as lynx, hare, coyote, wolf and moose while driving, hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, etc. These wildlife species frequently use trails, roadways and other well-traveled corridors.
(moose photo provided by Robert Olson)
Respect Wild Animals & Keep Your Distance
Winter is challenging to wildlife survival. Be considerate of wildlife.
Harassing wildlife is illegal. If any wildlife species alters its behavior because of your presence, you are too close. Using binoculars, spotting scopes and telephoto lenses are the safest and most respectful way to view wildlife. Undisturbed wildlife, in their natural environment, make for the best experiences and photo opportunities.
If animals are continually disturbed, they may move locations, change food sources and even abandon their young. Animals are particularly vulnerable in the winter when food may be scarce and additional movement in deep snow can zap their energy levels.
Never Feed Wildlife
If wildlife becomes dependent on human food a lot of issues can arise including, habituation to people, malnutrition and disease. Over time wild animals may lose their fear of humans and vehicles causing them to be injured or killed. Do not leave backpacks, trash or food where an animal might find it – pack out what you pack in.
Popular Winter Wildlife Viewing Sites:
Beluga Point (mp 110) – When Turnagain Arm is ice-free, Beluga whales are occasionally seen near this point. High tide is the best viewing time. Bald Eagles and Dall sheep may also be seen from here.
Windy Corner (mp 107) – This is an excellent viewing location for Dall sheep. Rams browse at higher elevations during the summer and congregate at lower elevations with ewes for the winter breeding season. Pull vehicles completely off the highway and watch for Highway traffic.
Portage Valley (mp 82-mp 76) – The valley has abundant wildlife all year. In the winter, moose congregate here, as many as 30 have been reported at one time. Wolves are occasionally spotted in the area. Also watch for coyote, eagles and lynx.
Tern Lake (mp 37) – Dall sheep and mountain goats frequent the mountains near Tern Lake. Eagles, ravens, owls, hawks, and wintering songbirds can also be seen here.
Exit Glacier Road (also known as Herman Leirer Road) (mp 4) – Eagles frequent the cottonwood trees along this road in early winter. Watch also for moose and other animals. The road closes to automobiles each year during the winter season. Winter recreational travel (skiing, biking, walking, snowmachining, etc) is still permitted.
Seward/Resurrection Bay (Seward mp 0) – Sea otters, harbor seals, sea lions, eagles, puffins and many other birds can be seen in the Seward area. Walk along the waterfront of Resurrection Bay or drive the Lowell Point road just south of Seward to see marine wildlife.
Cordova Wildlife Sites
Copper River Highway – Eagles, moose, coyote, wolves, mountain goat, wolverine and winter songbirds
Orca Road – Sea otters, seals, sea lions, sea ducks and Eagles - Orcas have also been spotted.
Hartney Bay – Sea ducks, overwintering waterfowl and seals
Eyak Lake Wier – Overwintering Trumpeter Swans, sea ducks, overwintering waterfowl, moose and mountain goat
Power Creek Road – Overwintering Trumpeter Swans, sea ducks, overwintering waterfowl, American Dipper and Bald Eagles
Breakwater – This short trail around the outside of the small boat harbor provides a great viewing area for seabirds, otters, seals, overwintering waterfowl and sea ducks.