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One of the major reasons people travel to Alaska is to view its
legendary wildlife. They spend plenty of money on photo safaris in
search of specific animals, though there is no absolute guarantee
of what they will actually see. And since the state is two-thirds
the size of the continental U.S. (there’s an old Alaskan saying
that if you cut Alaska in half, Texas would be the third largest
state), tedious travel to remote destinations via uncomfortable
transportation is sometimes required.
However, an exciting fact for all visitors is that throughout
the state, some animals are spotted easily and regularly: ravens,
which are the world’s largest songbird and believed by the Alutiq
natives to bring the moon, stars and sun; bald eagles, which are
more abundant in Alaska than anywhere else in the U.S.; and Dall
sheep, which are usually seen from afar as small white puffs on
mountainsides. Other native animals are spotted periodically from a
train or car or in a park.
A visit to Anchorage will satisfy your daring clients with
organized adventure tours out into the nearby wilderness to see
bears, birds, whales and other wildlife. It will also provide
guaranteed wildlife viewing to your less intrepid clients, who can
stay closer in and opt for an easier, faster, less expensive way to
get a close-up view of some of Alaska’s native animals by visiting
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Situated on 140 scenic acres at the entrance to Portage Valley
on the southern edge of Turnagain Arm, the non-profit Alaska
Wildlife Conservation Center provides refuge for orphaned, injured
and ill animals that cannot survive in the wild. It is Alaska’s
only drive-through wildlife park, but because the animals are
penned, many people opt to walk.
The list of animals seen in the spacious habitats here includes
grizzly bears, black bears, bald eagles, elk, moose, musk ox,
bison, porcupines, great horned owls and red foxes. All go about
their business in natural surroundings, living much as they would
in their natural habitat. Photo ops are excellent.
Designed so that visitors can barely see the enclosures, this
park-like center has a scenic range of mountains as a backdrop.
It’s easy to get impressive, unobstructed photographs of the
animals by just adjusting your camera lens through the wire fence.
Because these animals are wild, visitors are warned not to try to
pet or feed them.
Perhaps the most popular animal is a female grizzly bear named
Hugo. Housed in her 18-acre enclosure the largest bear enclosure in
North America she still has quills embedded in her skin from a
tangle with a porcupine. A herd of nearly extinct wood bison also
draws a lot of attention.
The center has programs to educate visitors about Alaska’s
wildlife, and in the spring and summer, visitors can often witness
the process of rehabilitating orphaned baby animals.
A well-stocked gift shop features made-in-Alaska crafts and
wildlife art, as well as a large selection of shirts, postcards and
jewelry. Proceeds support the animals.
Another good place to see wildlife is at the small Alaska Zoo.
Located in the Chugach foothills, it displays Arctic and sub-Arctic
animals along groomed trails in a natural setting. Native species
include mink, lynx, arctic foxes, reindeer and wolverines; some
exotics, including snow leopards and Tibetan yaks, are also
displayed. Volunteer-led tours provide a fuller understanding of
Among the favorite residents are the polar bear Ahpun and the
brown bear Oreo. As orphans, they once shared a den at the zoo.
Maggie, an elephant that occasionally plays the harmonica, draws
plenty of attention.
The zoo will also host groups sent there by travel agents, with
fees dependent on the services requested. Interested agents should
check its Web site.
For clients wanting to get farther out of the city, Chugach
State Park is a vast wilderness existing in Anchorage’s mountainous
backdrop and is home to moose, Dall sheep, mountain goats, coyotes,
foxes, lynx, bears, wolves and many species of bird and fish.
Consisting of a half-million acres, it is the third-largest state
park in the nation. A visit here allows mixing wildlife viewing
with hiking, skiing, camping, snowmobiling, rafting, climbing and
With even the simplest camera, any visitor to Anchorage can take
a photo safari to these scenic, easy-to-reach sites and come home
with an impressive wildlife album.
Anchorage Convention & Visitors
Chugach State Park