Alaska is known for having wide-open spaces, snow, and ice, but the state is also home to a vast amount of wildlife!
As many of us know, Alaska has some impressive marine life thanks to its amazing coastlines, glaciers, etc., where animals like polar bears and seals live. However, there is more to this state than meets the eye.
Alaska is home to various kinds of bears, whales, moose, reindeer, and more. This northern state is an excellent habitat for a variety of wildlife thanks to its geography, which boasts rivers, coastlines, mountains, glaciers, and more.
Curious to learn more about this state’s wild inhabitants? We here at Floofmania have prepared a rundown of wildlife you can find in Alaska!
Animals That Are Typical For Alaska
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Alaska has lots of different landscapes that house a variety of animals in one state. It is home to what is called “The Big Five,” a group of animals that are which are:
- Grizzly bears
- Gray wolves
- Dall sheep
They are regarded as “The Big Five” because they are some of the most common animals you can see in Alaska. Notably, they are also recognizable animals that many people associate with Alaska, hence them becoming the “Big Five” of Alaska.
Of course, Alaska has a lot more to offer when it comes to wildlife. Some other animals that are typical for Alaska include:
- Sea otters
There are various species of each animal listed and more, which we’ll learn more about below!
The Official Animal of Alaska
The official animal of Alaska is the moose, which was signed in to be the state animal back on May 1, 1998.
It is also worth noting that Alaska has an official state bird, which is the willow ptarmigan. This bird is similar to pheasants. It is unique for having light brown feathers in the summer that turn snow white during winter.
The Most Common Mammals In Alaska
Alaska is a habitat for many mammals, and it just so happens that the “Big Five” of Alaska are all mammals! Some of the more common mammals you can find in Alaska are:
Being the official animal of the state, moose also happens to be one of the most common mammals you can spot within Alaska. According to reports, there are roughly 175,000-200,000 moose throughout Alaska.
The moose is the world’s largest deer, being roughly the size of a horse and weighing anywhere from 840-1,500 pounds! Male moose are easy to spot since they have large antlers, but the females do not grow antlers.
You can find moose along the rivers of Southcentral and Interior, on timberline plateaus, and in birch forests.
However, moose are not present in all parts of Alaska since they are not found in the Aleutian Islands.
2. Gray Wolves
Another animal that is part of the Big Five is the gray wolf, and it is also extremely prolific in Alaska. It is estimated that there are 7,000-11,000 wolves in Alaska, but the gray wolf is the most commonly seen in Alaska.
Despite being called gray wolves, they can come in a variety of colors. Usually, they have brown and gray fur with black facial markings and white undersides. Their coat colors can vary between white, brown, and black.
3. Sea Otters
A unique marine mammal that is as cute as it is common is the sea otter. Sea otters are a common sight in Alaska, having around 70,000 of them in the state! Notably, 90% of the world’s sea otter population lives in Alaska.
Sea otters are often spotted near Alaska’s shores, which will usually be on southern Alaska’s coast. From there, you may see them floating on their backs in the water!
If you want to learn how sea otters thrive in Alaska’s cold climate, read our article “How Do Sea Otters Keep Warm?”.
4. Grizzly Bear
Commonly called brown bears, grizzly bears are one of the more common bears you can find in Alaska. Reportedly, 95% of the United States grizzly bear population lives in Alaska, which means there are over 30,000 of them.
Grizzly bears can be found all over Alaska, but they are not in the Bering Sea islands, west of Unimak in the Aleutian Chain, and islands on the south side of Frederick Sound in southeast Alaska.
These bears do not always look exactly the same either! The grizzly bears that live on the coast of Alaska are bigger than the others because they live on a diet full of salmon, which is rich in protein and fats.
5. Black Bear
While the grizzly bear may be part of Alaska’s Big Five, the black bear wins in terms of population. There are more than 100,000 black bears in Alaska!
Despite being called black bears, they vary in color. Black bear coat colors range from jet black to white. Black is the most common coat color, but cinnamon and brown coats are spotted in the southeastern mainland and Southcentral Alaska.
The Most Common Birds In Alaska
With over 475 species of birds recorded in Alaska, it is an excellent spot for bird watchers to go to. Here are some of the most common birds you can see in Alaska.
1. American Robin
American robins are the most common birds in Alaska. You can find them throughout Alaska, from the tundra to the forests! They are comfortable around humans, which is why you can spot them in backyards, too.
They are easily recognizable as well. They have grey-black feathers on their heads and backs with a rusty-red chest, white throat, white splotches on the eyes, and a yellow bill. The males and females look alike, but the females have paler feather colors.
2. Hairy Woodpecker
Another species common to Alaska is the hairy woodpecker. These woodpeckers can be found anywhere with large trees all year round, such as urban parks, suburban backyards, orchards, swamps, mature forests, and even cemeteries!
The Hairy Woodpecker has black and white feathers, but the black feathers on their backs and heads are speckles with white. They look extremely similar to Downy woodpeckers, but the Hairy Woodpecker has a longer bill and white tail feathers.
3. Song Sparrow
A bird that you can commonly see and hear in Alaska is the song sparrow. As you can guess, the song sparrow gets its name from the beautiful songs it sings, and here is how they sound!
Uniquely, these birds do not always sing identical songs. While most will involve three short notes and a short trill, each song will depend on the bird and location!
4. European Starling
A beautiful bird that you can find in Alaska is the European Starling. However, they are an invasive species that was introduced in New York, and the ones that came from New York flew to various states including Alaska.
You can easily spot a European Starling based on its feathers, which appear shiny. In the summer, it has a mixture of blue, purple, white, and black feathers. In the winter, their feather colors are black, white, and brown.
5. Rufous Hummingbird
Rufous Hummingbird is a small bird commonly found in Alaska. They are a great help to the ecosystem because they help pollinate thousands of flowers in the state.
A fun fact about these cute birds is that they are actually the most aggressive birds in Alaska! Despite their small size (3 inches long), they are often seen chasing other birds and even chipmunks away from bird feeders!
The Most Common Amphibians In Alaska
Despite being known as a cold state, Alaska has swamps, rivers, coasts, and more that can be home to amphibians. Alaska only has 6 species of amphibians, which include:
1. Wood Frog
The most common type of frog that you will find in Alaska is the wood frog. They are hardy and prolific amphibians, and they are found from Southeast Alaska to the Brooks Range.
Normally, wood frogs reside in the forests of Alaska, but you may find a few in people’s backyards.
Wood frogs have poisonous glands that release a mild toxin on their skin that can harm small prey. While this is not dangerous to humans, it is still best to not touch a wood frog!
2. Western Toad
Western toads are commonly found in Alaska, and they are the only kind of toad in the state! They can be spotted in the southeast Panhandle and Prince William Sound’s mainland coast.
A unique fact about these toads is that the males do not have any vocal sacs. However, they do “chirp” when they feel threatened.
3. Rough-Skinned Newt
Rough-skinned newts have been found all throughout Alaska. Notably, they have been seen throughout Southeast Alaska, Admiralty Island, and islands on the south side of Fredrick Sound.
If you happen upon one, be sure to never touch a rough-skinned newt. The skin of the larvae and adults along with their eggs have toxins that can irritate your skin or worse.
4. Long-Toed Salamander
Long-toed salamanders are another kind of amphibian that lives in Alaska. Usually, long-toed salamanders live in Southeastern Alaska, but some reports state that they have been seen near the Taku River.
These salamanders are easy to identify thanks to their dominantly brown-black body, a yellow stripe down their backs, and of course, their long toes.
5. Columbia Spotted Frog
One of the common amphibians in Alaska is the Columbia spotted frog. They often stay in Southeast Alaska’s coastal forests, but their exact range is not known.
They are highly aquatic amphibians, so they will rely on permanent water sources to survive. As such, they have been seen nearby the Salmon, Taku, Stikine, and Unuk rivers.
6. Northwestern Salamander
Finally, Northwestern salamanders are usually spotted in the coastal forests of Southeast Alaska.
They are a type of mole salamander that can grow up to 8.7 inches long. They come in a wide variety of colors but often feature a grey to black or dark brown dorsal with a light brown belly. Some of them will have flecking or white or yellow specs.
The Most Common Reptiles In Alaska
Unfortunately, Alaska’s wide expanse of wildlife does not include reptiles. In fact, Alaska is known for barely having any reptiles!
The closest thing to a native reptile in Alaska is a sea turtle. Usually, the sea turtles you would find in Alaska are the Green sea turtle and the Leatherback sea turtle.
However, these turtles are not common to find. These sea turtles are endangered species, so it would be rare to spot them along the coasts of Alaska.
The Most Common Fish In Alaska
Alaska is home to some of the world’s most impressive marine life. When it comes to fish, here are some that you can spot in the state:
One of the most common types of fish you can find in Alaska is salmon. Notably, there are a wide variety of species of salmon in Alaska!
Some examples of kinds of salmon in Alaska are:
- King salmon
- Sockeye salmon
- Coho salmon
- Silver salmon
- Pink salmon
2. Rainbow Trout
A common native fish to Alaska is the rainbow trout, which can be found in Southeast Alaska and as far as the Kuskokwim River.
Despite their name, rainbow trout are not as colorful as you think. Their bodies are primarily yellowish, green, or blue with silvery-white undersides. The “rainbow” part comes from a pink-red stripe that goes across the sides of their bodies.
3. Pacific Cod
Another fish that most people spot in Alaska is the Pacific cod. Usually, Pacific Cod are found within 3 miles of state waters.
They are large fish that can grow up to six feet in size. Notably, they can live fairly long lives because they can reach up to 20 years old.
Halibut are some of the largest flatfishes, and they are found in Alaska. Typically, these bottom dwellers can be found all throughout Alaska.
Impressively, these fish are huge since halibut can weigh more than 400 pounds! However, most halibut will be anywhere from 20-30 pounds depending on the age.
Similar to salmon, rockfish is a catch-all term used to refer to various types of rockfish. In Alaska, some of the species of rockfish include black, yellow-eye, and red rockfish.
Rockfish can be found in various parts of Alaska’s coastal areas at nearly any depth. They are often spotted all year in large schools.
How To Act Around Wild Animals In Alaska
The main rule for how to behave around wild animals in Alaska is to give the animals a lot of space.
Generally, some people say that if you can use your thumb to cover an animal from your view, you are at a good distance. This would mean you would be 25 yards away from most animals, but it could be up to 100 yards for larger animals.
If an animal happens to notice you, most animals will be cautious of you. You can use this opportunity to slowly back away from the animal until you are out of its sight.
However, this does not apply to all animals. For instance, brown bears in Alaska would likely leave you alone if you walk backward and slowly wave your arms while calmly speaking. This lets the bear know that you are a human.
If you are spotted by a predator like a mountain lion, you either stand your ground or very slowly walk away while appearing larger than the animal. Never run, bend over, or crouch because this can stimulate the predator’s senses to chase or stalk you.
Endangered Species In Alaska
While Alaska is teeming with wildlife, not all animals are faring well. Here is a list of some endangered species in Alaska:
- Bowhead Whale
- Arctic Ringed Seal
- Leatherback Sea Turtle
- Green Sea Turtle
- Green Sturgeon
- Steller Sea Lion
- Short-tailed Albatross
- Arctic Fox
Many of these species are endangered due to climate change and human interference. Humans may hunt these animals down or tear down their habitats, such as forests.
Extinct Animals That Used To Live In Alaska
Alaska is known for some famous prehistoric and now-extinct animals, such as the woolly mammoth, saber-toothed tiger, and dire wolf. However, some more modern animals have also gone extinct in Alaska, such as:
- Spectacled Cormorant
- Steller’s sea cow
Thankfully, not many animals have gone extinct in more recent years in Alaska. However, many are still endangered and most of them are marine animals.
Places In Alaska To Spot Wild Animals
Are you hoping to spot some wild animals in their natural habitat? Here are a few places that you can visit to see wild animals.
Kenai Fjords National Park
With ice dominating most of the land in this area, the Kenai Fjords National Park has multiple hiking trails, where you can spot some wild animals and a nature center. However, the coast is the best place to view wild animals.
Chugach State Park
If you are looking for a place with a vast amount of wildlife, Chugach State Park is the place to go. Chugach State Park features a mixture of rivers, forests, mountains, and a coastline to offer you a wide variety of animals to look at.
Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park is considered to be one of the best places to view animals, but you will need to get there via air taxi because it is remote. But once there, you are presented with excellent animal-viewing opportunities, such as spotting one of their over 2,000 brown bears!
Zoos In Alaska
For people who want to look at animals in Alaska but do not have time to roam around, here is a list of some zoos you can check out in Alaska!
A zoo that began its humble beginnings in 1966 with one infant elephant named Annabelle, this zoo is considered one of the best zoos in Alaska. Currently, Alaska Zoo is home to over 80 species of animals, and the zoo’s area goes over 30 acres in Anchorage.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Being one of the most crucial animal wildlife conservation centers in Alaska, this is a must-visit for animal lovers. The conservation is spread out over 200 acres and houses various types of animals that are present in Alaska.
Alaska Rainforest Sanctuary Wildlife & Eagle Centre
For those who are in the southeast region of Alaska, this is an excellent sanctuary to check out. You can avail of their 3-hour tour to view their raptor habitats, forest, salmon habitats, and more. Keep in mind that visitors are only allowed from May 3rd to September 30th every year.
Author: Allison Marie Dinglasan
Hello! I am Allison, an avid writer for 6 years with a deep interest in animals since I was a child. I grew up on Animal Planet and animal books and often did rescue work for stray and sickly cats, dogs, and birds in my area, which led to over 60 rescues. My future goal is to be a veterinarian to have a more hands-on approach to helping and learning about animals!