Wildlife Spotlight: Alaska’s Big Five

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Wildlife Spotlight: Alaska’s Big Five

There is a resident population of 30,000 grizzly bears in Alaska. Some people who have gone on an eco cruise here in Alaska were able to observe their behavior from afar. The wilderness of the 49th state is a vast expanse of territory inhabited by many species of wildlife.

Grizzly Bear

The powerful and fast subspecies of the brown bear has a fearsome reputation. Bear attacks in movies are usually attributed to famished grizzlies disturbed from their winter hibernation. The grizzly is a top predator in North America. Yet, most of the time it survives on berries, fruits, leaves and honey, if they find it.

The grizzly bear is one of Alaska’s “Big Five,” with caribou (reindeer), moose, Dall sheep and wolf completing the list.

Dall Sheep

Dall Sheep can only be found in Alaska and parts of Canada. The massive curled horns of the off-white male Dall Sheep distinguish them. The growth patterns of the horn are dictated by the seasons. Biologists can determine the age of Dall Sheep by examining the annuli or rings of the horns.

Even females sport the impressive horns, although they are not as curved or as long. They feed on plant life found in the wind-swept snow-free slopes. The sheep are inhabitants of the exposed cliffs of mountains, and about 40% of the population can be found in the state’s national parks.

Moose

The largest deer species in the world is the moose, which present themselves with long faces, and tall and imposing antlers. The largest of these growths can be separated by as much as six feet. Moose are distinguishable by the bell sways or skin flaps draped down their throat.

Moose are able runners, but they are capable swimmers as well. Moose roam the land grazing on buds, shrubs, bark and leaves. When there is no ice in the mountains, they can be found in the wetlands or rivers munching on aquatic plants.

Caribou

More popularly known as reindeer, the caribou is under threat from the consequences of human-made climate change, which affect their primary food – lichen. Caribou can travel extremely long distances, and in their annual migration, they mark miles of the Alaskan wilderness with their hoof.

Man has domesticated reindeer, and supplies families and communities with meat and milk.

Gray Wolves

Spectacular display of intense Northern Lights or Aurora borealis or polar lights forming green swirls over snowy winter landscape

The largest member of the dog family is known for their pack behavior and their ominous howling. Gray wolves are widespread in the Northern hemisphere, but they have been hunted relentlessly. Wolves are social animals with a pack leader dominating an established hierarchy.

A wolf pack may consist of six to ten individuals and cover tens of miles in a day. This energy consumption requires that they eat about 20 pounds of meat in a single meal. A pack hunts as a unit and can bring down much larger animals, including moose and bison.

The Big Five are good examples of the amazing biodiversity that sets Alaska apart from other member states. If you haven’t explored the natural wonders of the state, perhaps you should consider a holiday up north to check out the wildlife.

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