If you are like most visitors to Alaska one of the primary reasons you want to visit is to see Alaska’s bountiful wildlife. After all, images of large brown bears in a stream feasting on Alaskan salmon or a bull moose grazing in alpine ponds are iconic pictures of what visitors seek in planning trips to Alaska. However, Alaska is a HUGE state and even though there are over 175,000 moose and 30,000 bears among other wildlife in Alaska they are not always conveniently staged in their local habitat such as in our parks such as Denali, Kenai Fjords, or Lake Clark National Park.
Generally speaking, if you come to Alaska and visit our National Parks such as Kenai Fjords National Park or Denali National Park you should see wildlife. Particularly when you take recommended tours like the Kantishna Wilderness Trails Tour in Denali, or the Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise out of Seward. But with such high expectations to see Alaska wildlife such as moose, bear, caribou, salmon, or whales it pays to have a backup plan! If time is running out and you must check off a few additional animals on your bucket list, here are a few locations throughout South-central and Interior Alaska that you can be guaranteed to see Alaska’s animals –
The Alaska Zoo – A wonderful place for families and visitors who enjoy zoos. The Alaska Zoo is wonderfully set in the woods of South Anchorage at 4731 O’Malley Road. Among the 72 species of animals that you can see are Moose, Caribou, Gray Wolfs, as well as Brown, Black and Polar Bears! They even have a shuttle from downtown Anchorage.
The Alaska Wilderness Conservation Center – Located just outside of Portage, the AWCC is about an hour south of Anchorage in route to Seward. The Center takes in injured and orphaned animals year-round and provides spacious enclosures and quality animal care. Animals that cannot be released into the wild are given a permanent home at the center.
Alaska Sea Life Center – Alaska’s only public aquarium and ocean wildlife rescue center is on the shores of Resurrection Bay in Seward. Visitors to this “window on the sea” have close encounters with puffins, octopus, sea lions and other sea life while peeking over the shoulders of ocean scientists studying Alaska’s rich seas and diverse sea life.
University of Alaska’s Large Animal Research Station – Originally created to reestablish a heard of Musk oxen in Alaska, the University now studies other large animals such as Caribou as well. The Station is established on a historical homestead near the University. If you plan on visiting, you will want to call ahead and verify the day’s tour schedule.
The Musk Ox Farm – Nestled in the Matanuska Valley just outside of Palmer, Alaska, about a fifty-minute drive from downtown Anchorage. The Colony farm has been raising domestic musk ox for over 60 years. They usually have about 50-60 musk ox which they raise to produce “Quivut”, the wool which many Alaska artisans and custom clothes-makers use in their products.
As you travel through Alaska, we hope you do come upon wildlife in its natural setting but if you don’t, visit one of these “wildly” popular locations to guarantee yourself and your family the opportunity to take the perfect photo or to observe Alaska’s most popular wildlife up close.