Anchorage’s surrounding parkland is the ideal habitat for Alaska’s diverse wildlife populations. Spot Dall sheep along the Seward Highway and beluga whales in Turnagain Arm. See moose, fox, beavers and an occasional bear along trails and in city neighborhoods. Watch salmon travel upstream in Ship Creek and leap at nearby William Jack Hernandez Hatchery.
A word to the wildlife wise – give animals plenty of space and never attempt to feed or pet them. Here are a few species you might spot running wild within the city of Anchorage:
It's not unusual to find moose munching on residents' shrubbery or sharing city trails in any season. However, Anchorage’s resident moose population is most visible in winter, when heavy snows in the Chugach Mountains drive them to seek food at lower altitudes. Watch for newborns at the end of May. In late September and October, adult moose are in “rut” – a breeding time when males joust with their antlers in order to win the attention of females.
Most of the sheep here are ewes, lambs and young rams, although a few mature rams may also be spotted. They rest on grassy ledges to elude predators such as coyotes, wolves and bears. Take a drive south along scenic Turnagain Arm and watch for Dall sheep on the steep hillsides, most often at Windy Point – the only place in the world where Dall sheep can be seen near the road at sea level.
All three species of North American bears flourish in Alaska, and are a popular attraction for visitors. One of the best opportunities for viewing bear in the wild is on a bear viewing charter to Kodiak Island or Katmai National Park. Fly-in adventures begin right in Anchorage. Bears also live in neighboring Chugach State Park, Denali National Park and Redoubt Bay.
Potter Marsh, part of the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge, is just 12 miles south of downtown. The 2,300-acre(920-hectare) wetland serves as home or migratory stopover to more than 220 species of birds, including bald eagles, trumpeter swans, Canada geese and a broad variety of ducks. A lengthy boardwalk with interpretive displays educates bird watchers of all levels.
Beluga whales can be seen chasing salmon around Cook Inlet in front of Anchorage and down Turnagain Arm. For orca, gray and humpback whales, the best bet is to take a glacier and wildlife cruise from Whittier or Seward.
On a day or half-day glacier and wildlife cruise tour from Seward or Whittier, you’ll see an amazing collection of seabirds and marine mammals, including orca and gray whales, porpoise, sea otters, seals, Steller sea lions, eagles, puffins and more.
Denali State Park, Denali National Park & Preserve and along Denali Highway are all good areas to look for caribou, spotted mostly north of Anchorage. There's also a small herd in the Kenai area.
Caution! Even the friendliest looking animals are wild – and highly unpredictable. Keep your distance. Bring along a good telephoto lens for close-up photographs.