Alaska is the Last Frontier and has become a popular destination to view not only amazing landscapes but also to see unique wildlife. Like Africa’s Big 5, Alaska has their own Big 5 animals that roam the landscape. The best place to see all of these amazing creatures is in Denali National Park while hiking or on a tour. Read on to find out how to spot all of the Big 5 animals in Alaska on your next vacation.
At more than 6 feet, these animals are larger than life! Alaska moose are the largest in North America and can be quite aggressive if provoked, so give them a wide berth. One of the Big 5 animals in Alaska, they live in the forested areas of Denali and love water so they can often be found near lakes with their young or swimming around for fun. You can also find one of the them eating their favorite snacks, like bushes, tree needles, and leaves.
Caribou are a member of the deer family that have concave hooves that allow them to walk on frozen landscape and snow. Sometimes they are referred to as reindeer, but in Alaska only domesticated caribou are reindeer. In the wild, this member of the deer family travels in large herds and move around according to the time of year. As part of the group of Big 5 animals in Alaska, you can usually see them out in the open on the tundra eating the flowering plants, mushrooms, and willow leaves in the summertime. Of note, both male and female caribou grow antlers over the summer that can be as tall as 53 inches, almost 4 and a half feet!
These unique sheep are named after the Alaskan explorer William Dall, a founding member of the National Geographic Society. They possess cloven hooves that allows them to cling to the rugged mountain terrain at high altitudes. With white fur and curled yellow-orange horns, they are very distinctive and easy to spot trotting or eating plants along mountain ridges.
Black bears and brown bears both live in Denali National Park. Brown bears in the park are smaller than their coastal cousins and are most often called grizzly bears. Even though grizzlies aren’t as big, they still can weigh as much as 800 pounds and can be 7 feet tall. Black bears hang out in forested areas, so it’s easiest to catch sight of a black bear wandering alone or with cubs over open tundra and also along gravel bars near streams. While coastal brown bears eat salmon, those in the park enjoy roots, berries, fresh vegetation, and even caribou, moose, and sheep. You’ll be able to find them mostly on the north side of the Alaska Range.
Like bears in the park, gray wolves inhabit the area north of the Alaska Range and tend to hunt snowshoe hares, squirrels, moose, Dall sheep, and caribou. They hunt, wander, and raise their young in packs of up to 20 or 30. While it is rare to see wolves in Denali, you can still look for them along the gravel banks near water or in open ground. Your best bet is to find a location near a wolf den. Your tour guide or a park ranger will know of closed areas put in place to protect a den, so you can ask them for a good place to possibly see wolves nearby. Listen for their howls in the morning or evening hours.
However you choose to see Alaska, wildlife sightings are a thrilling experience and not to be missed. Don’t forget those binoculars and cameras and head over to Denali National Park either with a cruisetour or with a guided tour to see the Big 5 animals in Alaska.