Wildlife

It may often be  cold and inhospitable, but Alaska is bursting with wildlife. This is where you lose out if you only see Alaska from a cruise, as the wildlife has not yet developed a habit of standing on a beach a waving to the passing ships. You may see whales from your cruise, but don’t expect any Grizzly Bears.

 

 

Moose, Portege Wildlife Park

We had a close encounter with a moose in the wild at Denali while out walking near to our hotel. However it was a female hence had no antlers. This magnificent male was a resident in a wildlife park close to Seward.

Red Fox, Denali National Park

Much of the wildlife is difficult to spot because it is so well camouflaged. The driver stopped to point out a wolf which was only about 25 metres away, but it blended so well with the vegetation that we had great difficulty spotting it. This Red Fox was highly visible as it was sitting right beside the road, but had it been further away it would have blended easily into the background.

 

Hump Back Whale & tour boat from boat trip out of Juneau, AK, USA
Grizzly Bear digging for prey, Denali National Park, AK, USA
Moose, Portege Wildlife Park, AK, USA
Red Fox, Denali National Park, AK, USA

Hump Back Whale near Juneau

The tail of a Hump Back Whale rises briefly as it dives in the sea near Juneau. Although we did not get very close to the whales (this was taken with the 400mm lens) we sighted plenty of them.  You have to be pretty unlucky not to see wildlife in Alaska, indeed the tour boat company offered you money back if less than five species were seen and we suspect that they rarely, if ever, have to pay out.

Hump Back Whale from boat trip out of Juneau, AK, USA

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Willow Ptarmigan, Denali National Park, AK, USA

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- The wildlife may not be as easy to find as in the Galapagos Islands, but if you have and experienced guide you will be well rewarded.
- You may not see much if the weather is poor.
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Willow Ptarmigan, Denali National Park

The Willow Ptarmigan or Willow Grouse is Alaska’s State Bird, so it was very appropriate that one was waiting by the road in Denali National Park to show itself off to the passing tourists. It was in the process of replacing its white winter plumage with brown and black summer plumage. The range of the Willow Ptarmigan extends right round the northern parts of the globe across Canada, Scandinavia and Russia and southwards to central British Columbia and similar latitudes elsewhere.

Hump Back Whale meets tourists, Juneau

The tour boat captains are  good at spotting wildlife, and unlike the Denali bus drivers they can use binoculars without stopping. Having spotted a whale the captains are pretty good at guessing roughly where they will surface next and can head in that general direction, but they are not allowed to chase after the whales. As a result, you will be lucky if a whale surfaces really close to your boat. This Hump Back Whale is much further from the tour boat than the picture suggests - the shot was taken with a 400mm lens which makes them appear close to one another.

Grizzly Bear, Denali National Park

To keep disturbance and damage to a minimum, your tour through Denali is by bus. The bus driver must have telephoto vision as he or she seems to be able to spot wildlife that is a very long way away. Although the drivers like to talk about  times when they drove round a corner to find a bear sunning itself on a rock,  we suspect that these are very rare events - bears like solitude. This was the nearest we got to a Grizzly Bear, taken with a 400mm lens. It appeared to be digging in the bank, probably trying to dig out a Ground Squirrel.

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