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Arctic Wildlife Photos

Arctic Fox on Frozen Tundra

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Arctic Wildlife Photos

Alaska has the distinction of the most northern, western, and eastern state in the Nation. Alaska's most easterly point is Semisopochnoi Island. It is located at 179.63 degrees east of the prime meridian! Of course a large part of Alaska takes claim to the most obvious title of "most western state" as well as the "most northern state." The northern part of Alaska extends well beyond the Arctic Circle up to the Beaufort Sea and Arctic Ocean. Along with vast lands of Tundra, wildlife is plentiful. At Alaska Stock Images, you will find a wide variety of Alaska photos including Arctic Wildlife Photos. To find more pictures of Alaska or photos of Arctic wildlife, visit our search page.

Arctic Coastal Plain
Arctic Coastal Plain

It's pretty much impossible to write about arctic wildlife without including the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. Created in 1980, the 19.6 million-acre wildlife sanctuary was set-aside as a haven. The northern most part, known as the "coastal plain, is an expanse that is seemingly barren and dotted with thousands of unconnected small ponds. As you move south, the land becomes gently rolling tundra with treeless hills which merge into foothills and then into the northern edges of the Brooks Range.

ANWR Photos
Hkers near Hulahula river, ANWR

Upon closer examination, the "barren" view becomes less accurate. With vast amounts of tundra, melt ponds, marshes, lagoons, and rivers, the Arctic provides an expansive home to a long list wildlife, plants, and people. The Arctic Ocean coastal plain is home to about 160 bird species which migrate to and from the lower 48 every year. Rock and Willow Ptarmigan are the most abundant birds during winter and are found in patches of willows where they feed mainly on the buds. Ravens are the most conspicuous winter birds. With their many varied voices, and generous size, the Raven continues to be the thief, trickster, and jokester of the Native lore. A few Gyrfalcons and Snowy Owls also make their home on the plain in the winter. Late May and early June bring long days, warmer temperatures, and flocks of migrating birds - ducks, geese, shore birds, jaegers, gulls, terns, songbirds, and others. Some of these species stay in ANWR, while others continue to destinations elsewhere in Alaska and Canada. Migratory birds have been known to travel great distances. Some come as far as the coast of China, southern Asia, Africa, Argentina, Chile and even the Antarctic.

It is a primary and important calving ground for the Porcupine caribou herd which today is approximately 130,000 and considered the second largest caribou herd in the United States. The Porcupine herd generally spends time during the summer months on the Coastal Plain, and the smaller Central Arctic Herd, approximately 32,000 animals, stay to the west of the Coastal Plain.

Porcupine Caribou Herd Photo
Porcupine Caribou Herd ANWR


Grizzly, wolverines, wolves, musk-ox, arctic foxes, whales and other species also make their home in the Arctic region and especially along the coastal plain. Within ANWR, most Grizzly dens are located on south-facing slopes in the mountains south of the Coastal Plain, where prevailing winds help accumulate a layer of snow that provides insulation for the dens. Because the soils tend to be coarse textured and poorly bonded, dens cannot be dug until the ground has frozen to a depth of about four inches.


The Coastal Plain is also an important denning area for the Alaska polar bear. The polar bear spend little time on land. Throughout most of the year, most Beaufort Sea polar bears will seek out the sea ice and travel to its outer reaches. Sea ice is the habitat of ringed seals which are the predominant prey of polar bears. Polar bears also prey on bearded seals and occasionally belugas and walrus.

Alaska's Arctic Polar Bears
Alaska's Arctic Polar Bear
It is not uncommon to see moose wandering the streets and back roads of Anchorage. Although caution must be especially given in the spring and early summer when female moose are often protecting their calves. It is well-known etiquette (and simply smart) to always back away and go a different direction when you come across a mother and her young. Black bear and, on occasion, Grizzly have been known to find their way into Anchorage. With the close proximity to the Chugach Mountains, wildlife often finds Anchorage an intriguing place to visit.
Musk Ox Photo
"Pre-historic" looking Musk Ox

Musk Oxen are perhaps one of the most unique animals in the Arctic region. With shaggy fur and a box-like body shape, they resemble something out of pre-historic times. Their habit of forming a defensive circle in the face of danger resulted in near extinction by hunters with guns. The animal's instinctive defense mechanism protects them from wolves, but provides an easy mark for hunters. The Musk Oxen were virtually wiped out by hunters in the 1800's. It wasn't until the 1930's that the Department of Fish and Game purchased 34 Musk Ox from Greenland and re-introduced them to Alaska. In 1969 and 1970, the Musk Ox was finally brought back to the Coastal Plain in the Arctic where they continue to thrive today. Various herds now total approximately 400 Musk Ox and the herds continue to expand.


Sites of Interest:


Defenders of Wildlife - ANWR

ANWR.org

Books of Interest:

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land - With Inupiat guide Robert Thompson, Banerjee traveled 4,000 miles through the refuge on foot and by raft, kayak, and snowmobile during all four seasons. With more than 200 breathtaking color images, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land makes this case: leaving the refuge intact in all its mysterious beauty is vital to the survival of this unique ecosystem. Banerjee's photos are paired with six essays and a foreword by former president Jimmy Carter.
Midnight Wilderness: Journeys in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge - MIDNIGHT WILDERNESS is a passionate and vivid account of one of Alaska's greatest natural treasures: the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the largest and most pristine wilderness region set aside in the United States. Author Debbie Miller draws on her thirteen years of exploring this unique, magical, and expansive territory, weaving personal anecdotes, chilling adventures, wildlife observations, and Native issues.






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