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9 spirit-lifting animals you can see in Alaska during the winter

Sure, everyone talks about all the legendary wildlife viewing of Alaska’s summers, but what about the winter — is there anything worth seeing?

The answer is yes! — of course there’s wild animals roaming around the cold and snow. Here are 9 you will not forget or regret if you see them. Admittedly some are harder to spot than others, but give it a shot!

Bald eagles

eagle

Our national bird majestically flies all times of the year in Alaska. Granted, many go to the more southern parts of Alaska during the winter, but it’s very common to see bald eagles soaring through the skies of Anchorage in the winter.

Alaska has the most abundant population of bald eagles than anywhere else in the United States (30,000 strong). Got time to read a book on Alaskas eagles?

Moose

moose

When it gets cold, moose like to congregate in lower elevations for food, which is why you might see more of them in the winter in Anchorage than in the summer(!).

Kincaid Park and the Coastal Trail are prime places to spot moose. FYI, they lose about 25 percent of their body weight during winter months, so they won’t be as big as you might imagine.

Snowshoe hares

snowshoe_hare

The most common hare in Alaska are equipped with large furry hind legs, which make running through deep snow a breeze for them. They like to eat spruce twigs and needles, bark, and hardwood buds.

Sad but true: An average of 85% of snowshoe hares won’t live past the first year of their lives.

Caribou

caribou

…or is it reindeer? Same species, actually. These herding animals have pliable hooves, which help them traverse across snow.

In the winter, you can find them hanging out in boreal forests, where they do their best to conserve energy. Like moose, caribou have hollow hair that serves as insulation.

Ravens

raven

Ravens are extremely smart and sophisticated birds with a penchant for scavenging and other forms of social savvy. They are known for solving problems with logic, as well as interacting/cooperating with other predators to locate food.

You will no doubt spot tons of ravens around Anchorage. After all, they like to congregate around us humans.

Wolves

wolf

It’s not likely you’ll see a wolf in the wild near Anchorage — but if you do, consider it a rare gift. Wolves live in packs with a tight social order, and hunt mostly moose and caribou in the winter. They’ll dig as deep as 10 feet into snow to find carcasses.

Just like our dog friends, wolves love to run and play in the snow. There are about 7,000 – 11,000 wolves living in Alaska.

Arctic foxes

arctic_fox

Short legs, body, and ears, and thick fur make arctic foxes an ideal build for staying warm in the winter. They are solitary creatures in the winter, sometimes daring enough to venture out onto the sea ice to feed on the remains of seals killed by polar bears.

Good luck spotting one near Anchorage — arctic foxes are found mostly in tundra and the treeless coastal area of Alaska. Arctic foxes have excellent hearing, too.

Willow ptarmigans

ptarmagain

Meet Alaska’s state bird! The willow ptarmigan changes to white from light brown in the winter, and likes to eat willow tree twigs, buds and leaves.

Ptarmigan have a crop (throat pouch) the size of a softball, which lets them stuff enough food to last overnight while they roost in the snow. Unfortunately, these birds are prey to many other animals, including foxes, measles, wolves, wolverines and fellow birds such as crows, ravens, eagles and more.

Voles

vole

These tiny rodents are very common throughout Alaska, but you’ll have to look hard to seem them. Voles are similar to mice, weigh only 44 grams and have a lifespan of one year.

They are also an important part of the food chain — at the bottom, where they serve as meals for weasels, owls, coyotes, foxes, hawks, house cats and even other voles!

Other Alaska winter animals worth a mention

Snowy Owl, lynx (Alaska’s only native cat), wolverine, mountain goats, harbor seals and sea lions, polar bears and dahl sheep.

Photo credits: Alaska Region U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, lil_alaska_cutiespecialk87031denblinpspuckster55pics, studebakerbirds 1 2 3duncanalaskaexplorealaskaphotomghnriley