Countless times people tell us, “We didn’t see any wildlife on our road trip to Alaska”. After I roll my eyes [behind my sunglasses of course] I ask them, “Did you look?”
Please don’t confuse Alaska for a zoo. It’s home to some of the most wild lands around and there’s plenty of wildlife, you just need to look. On many occasions you will see a moose grazing on alders next to the highway, and if you’re up here long enough you are bound to see something.
If you are looking for a zoo, we suggest visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
10 Steps: See more wildlife on your RV trip to Alaska
- Find a good vantage point: Preferably a spot where you can see far, but not too far. A nice overlook of a few miles of land is enough.
- Get out of your RV: This means pull over, turn off the engine, step outside, and take a deep breath.
- Bring your binoculars: Also known as field glasses, they are your greatest material asset to spotting wildlife.
- If physically possible, walk down a trail: Put some dirt under your feet and walk into the woods. If you’re afraid, overcome those fears and you will not regret the decision.
- Find your spot: Get comfortable and quietly stay in your spot for at least 10 minutes. Become centered in your surroundings and start using your binoculars.
- Glass the hills: This means use your binoculars in a grid pattern across the hills. Also pay attention on the edges of wooded areas and clearings. Many animals feel vulnerable when standing out in the open.
- Look for slight movements: Unless animals are hunting or threatened they generally don’t move fast. Look for branches moving or mysterious brown spots. When you find one, focus in closely to determine it’s identity.
- Use senses other than your eyes: If you are trying to spot something in an heavily wooded area, your ears can be a better asset than your eyes. Your nose can also be very helpful, animals have a very musty smell. Don’t forget to use plain old human intuition.
- Know what you’re looking for and where: For example, moose are comfortable in swamps, brush, and woods. Caribou are at home in the forest but like to graze on lichen and are regularly seen on open treeless hills and in valleys. Goat and sheep like the protection of rocky cliffs. Bears can regularly be spotted eating berries on the sides of mountains above the treeline. Look for tracks, scat, rubs, and learn the signs of wildlife.
- Scan the ridges: Look at the tops of the mountains, it’s common to see a herd of caribou profiled on a ridge.
- Birds and small animals count: It’s not just about the moose and bears. Be sure to appreciate the beauty in all the creatures of Alaska, not just the big ones.
- Millions of waterfowl migrate to Alaska every summer. It’s a true blessing to sit back and watch Trumpeter Swans and Sandhill Cranes on a pond.
- Walk through a spruce forest and listen for Stellar Blue Jays. These beautiful crested birds are one of several animals named after the botanist Georg Wilhelm Steller.
- Don’t piss off the squirrels. Rather small and living in the forests, Alaska’s red squirrels are very territorial and vocal. They have even been known to throw things at humans sitting below their food cache.
- Keep an eye out for the ol’ porcupine. Porcupines can thrive in many of Alaska’s environments. They are fascinating to watch and otherwise harmless to humans unless you try to pet one. A word of warning, curious dogs regularly get a snout full of quills.
- Please don’t disturb the animals: Unless it’s hunting season and you’re prepared to make a harvest leave the animals alone. It’s not advised to see just how close you can get to that moose so your iPhone will take a good picture. If you really want a good picture buy a post card or invest in a camera with a zoom lens.
- Please be mindful of hunters: If you are in Alaska after the middle of August, it’s hunting season. Every year thousands of Alaskans enter the field to harvest healthy organic meat for their families. If you have a personal objection to hunting for food, remember you are a guest in our state and please do not disrupt someones hunt for food.
One of our primary goals is to help you make the most of your RV trip to Alaska. If you have any input or questions please leave them in the comments section. Thank You!