Wildlife Viewing (Denali's Big Five)
The moose is a symbol of life in Alaska. It is the largest member of the deer family. Moose are long-legged and heavy bodied with a drooping nose, a “bell” or dewlap under the chin, and a small tail. Newborns weigh 28-35 lbs and w/in five months grow over 300 lbs. Males in prime condition weigh 1,000 to 1,600 lbs. Only bulls (males) have antlers and can stand over 7 feet at the shoulder. Rarely do moose live longer than 16 yrs. A cow (female) moose defends her newborn calf vigorously.
More people hunt moose than any other of Alaska’s big game species. Hunting season is during autumn and winter. Moose outnumber bears nearly three to one in Alaska.
Moose attacks spike in September and October during mating season and early spring when mothers are protecting their young calves. If you notice their hair raised, head down and ears back or licking its lips, that’s your cue to hightail it in the opposite direction, running in a zig-zag formation.
Moose are taller than a horse, heavier than a bear, and faster than a kangaroo, running up to 35 miles per hour. While moose are generally perceived to be less dangerous than bears, more people are actually injured each year in Alaska by moose than bears.
Alaska has the highest rate of moose-vehicle collisions in the world.
There are “white” moose… 1 in 100,000 moose has the albino trait, which is recessive.
Alaska is bear country. Here in the interior, you can find both black bears and brown bears. Black bears are 5 feet long; males can range from 150-400 lbs, and females from 125-250lbs. They are brown to black in color with a white patch on the front of the chest.
Alaska is also home to North American Brown Bears, also known as the grizzly bear. Grizzly bears are 7-9 feet long, with males weighing in at 400-1,100 lbs and females from 200-600 lbs. They have lifespans up to 30 years with a normal lifespan being 20-25 yrs. Grizzly bears are more aggressive than black bears.
Most bears are by nature shy and prefer to avoid people.
Caribou are part of the reindeer family. Both sexes grow antlers, but males have larger antlers. Reindeer are thought to be the only mammals that can see ultraviolet light.
Caribou have large, concave hoofs that spread widely to support the animal in snow and soft tundra. Adult bulls average 350-400 pounds, while mature females average 175-225 pounds.
Bears and wolfs are their predators. Fun Fact: There are more caribou than people in Alaska.
Dall Sheep inhabit the mountain ranges of Alaska.
These white creatures are most notable for the males' massive curled horns. Females (known as ewes) also carry horns, but theirs are shorter and more slender and only slightly curved. Until rams reach the age of 3 years, they tend to resemble the ewes quite a bit. After that, continued horn growth makes the males easily recognizable. Horns grow steadily during the spring, summer, and early fall. In late fall or winter, horn growth slows and eventually ceases.
Dall rams as old as 16 years have been seen, and ewes have been known to reach 19 years of age. Generally, however, a 12-year-old sheep is considered quite old. They can grow up to 300 pounds. Their predators are wolves, coyotes, and golden eagles.
Also known as the grey wolf or the timber wolf. Alaska is home to an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 wolves. Wolves have never been threatened or endangered in Alaska; although there was some speculation in a recent article in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that there is now cause for concern.
Most adult male wolves in interior Alaska weigh from 85 to 115 pounds, but they occasionally reach 145 pounds. Females average 10 to 15 pounds lighter than males and rarely weigh more than 110 pounds. Wolves reach adult size by about 1 year of age.
Fun Fact: There are 12 species of big game besides the Denali Big Five that includes musk oxen, wolverine, mountain goat, black-tailed deer, elk, and ram.