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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Review of the Alaska Animal Wildlife Conservation Center in Anchorage for Cruise Excursion or Independent Tour

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to conservation, research, education, and animal care in Girdwood.  It is perfectly located along Seward Highway between the large Alaskan City of Anchorage and Whittier, a major cruise port for Alaska itineraries. Think about visiting on your own or as part of a guided tour.  We were part of a tour that dropped us off and we explored on our own.  

We had a couple of hours here and it was well worth the trip we saw black and brown bear, bison, caribou, moose, porcupine, wolves, deer, a bald eagle and owls just to name a few. The photographs we obtained were superb and overall this was an excellent introduction to the birds and animals of the region.

Getting There:

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is located between Anchorage & Whittier, from Anchorage about a 2 hour drive- it's some of Alaska's most beautiful scenery you could imagine, with Glacier- topped mountains and waterways, you can see some wildlife- keep your eyes open.  If you are taking a cruise this is a great stop off on the way to or from the port at Whittier.   We opted for transportation to our cruise and the Center was a stopping point along the way.


We found out that the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Alaska Wildlife through education and quality animal care, The Center takes in orphaned and injured animals and provides them with refuge and spacious enclosures.  They are a smaller operation and we were hoping to get closer to the animals than we could during our time in Denali all while enjoying great views of the surrounding mountains.  Our time here didn't disappoint! Don't just drive through, take the time to walk (it will be around 1-2 miles of walking on uneven surfaces) and visit the various enclosures.

Here are some of the animals we saw:

1. The Sitka Black Tail Deer 

They are found only in Alaska, and some parts of Canada's pacific coast. These deer are absolutely beautiful but were sleepy the day we were there!

2. Elk 

In Alaska they are limited to island habitats with temperate, maritime climates. They feed on a variety of plants at different times of the year. During the summer months, they favor grasses, forbs, willows, and other leafy greens while in the winter they munch on branches and twigs of trees and shrubs. The last native elk were found in interior Alaska during the “Ice Age” and died out many thousands of years ago. Modern elk populations were derived from Washington and Oregon elk being transplanted to islands in southeast Alaska and Kodiak.

3. Musk Oxen 

Amazing animals that live in the frozen Arctic and roam the tundra in search of the roots, mosses, and lichens that sustain them. In winter, they use their hooves to dig through snow to graze on these plants. During the summer, they supplement their diet with Arctic flowers and grasses, often feeding near water. These animals have inhabited the Arctic for many thousands of years, and their long shaggy hair is well adapted to the frigid climate. The outer hairs, called guard hairs, cover a second, shorter undercoat that provides additional insulation in winter. This undercoat falls out when temperatures climb at winter's end.

4. Moose

Only males or bull moose have antlers. Most male moose calves develop bony knobs on their heads by the end of their first summer. After the first year, they grow antlers every summer and shed them during the winter.

You will definitely get close to moose without being at risk like in the wild!

We capture many of our photos and videos using a hand held gimbal by DJI Osmo.  This is our favorite to stabilize the camera and operate it with one hand.  The price point is amazing for the drone technology provided!  Click the photo below to learn more at Amazon and these links help support our mission to give to charity!

5. Fox

In June of 2013, Jade was picked up by joggers on a running trail in Anchorage believing he was orphaned.  Foxes are known to be very curious animals so it’s possible that Jade may have just been exploring his new surroundings when he was found. Because it is illegal to take a fox kit as a pet, Jade was brought to the AWCC where he has been given a permanent home.

6. Black Bear 

They are the smallest bears in Alaska. Adult males can weigh up to 400 pounds. They are found in heavily forested areas throughout Alaska and are excellent tree climbers.

7. Grizzly Bear

JB’s and Patron’s story began in the town of Willow, Alaska. Their mother killed a moose calf in a local resident’s backyard and as result, the man was afraid the bear might try to attack his dog. The man killed the mother, not knowing she had cubs nearby.  Once he saw the two cubs, he called the area wildlife biologist to notify him of the situation.  The biologist, who happened to be a former gymnast, daringly climbed to the top of the skinny tree the cubs were hiding in. He was able to grab the smaller male cub by a rear leg, holding on to the tree with the other hand. He climbed down and lowered the cub into a fish net. The second cub was more of a challenge; she was a large female cub and acted aggressively. The biologist climbed to the top of the tree, injected her with a sedative, then grabbed her by the scruff. As he began to climb down, the skinny birch tree began to bend and crack. The tree bent all the way over, delivering the biologist and the cub safely to the ground!

Photo courtesy of AWCC

Take some time to stop in the gift shop for a cup of coffee and some souvenirs and maybe you'll get to kiss a bear!

8. The Wood Bison 

They are the northern cousin of the plains bison that roams in the lower 48. Wood bison are the largest land animal in the entire Western Hemisphere! A large, mature bull wood bison will often weigh 2,250 pounds versus the 1,900 pounds of the smaller plains bison. A mature cow wood bison will weigh in at about 1,000 pounds. Calves are born from May to July, are a reddish color for a few weeks, and weigh in at 40 pounds at birth. They begin to grow horns and develop a “hump” at about two months. Bison are grazers and feed primarily on grasses, sedges and forbs.

9. Coyotes

The animals are well-taken care of by staff and volunteers.  Here the staff member was heading out to feed the coyotes, who we could tell were eager to eat just like your dog does at home when they are ready to eat...very attentive! This staff member was kind enough to give me a close up of what their diet consists of! Coyotes are carnivores with a varied diet of snowshoe hares, moose, rodents, caribou, marmots, ground squirrels, muskrats, fish, and insects.

10. Porcupine 

We met this porcupine during a free animal presentations made by the staff. We learned that baby porcupines are born with their quills that harden within hours of birth. This porcupine was very old and couldn't see very well, but sure could find her food! 

The animals are incredible but don't forget the views! 

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) is located in Portage Valley and is surrounded by the breathtaking Chugach Mountain Range and Turnagain Arm Inlet.  The views are amazing!


Bottom Line:

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC) is a sanctuary dedicated to preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, research and quality animal care. AWCC takes in injured and orphaned animals year-round and provides spacious enclosures and quality animal care. They have been able to provide care for hundreds of displaced animals because visitors have made critical contributions in the form of admission fees, donations, memberships, and gift shop. All the animals seem well cared for and healthy.  Please support this meaningful organization and learn about Alaska's unique wildlife at the same time.  It is worth a day trip from Anchorage or at least as a stop off to or from the Alaskan cruise port of Whittier.   

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