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Wildlife & Habitat

Caribou Crossing Becharof Lake Below Mt. Peulik

Becharof National Wildlife Refuge provides important habitat for fish and wildlife.  The population includes brown bear, moose, caribou, wolf, wolverine, fox, land otter, and beaver; five species of Pacific salmon, Arctic grayling, Dolly Varden char, lake trout, northern pike, and burbot. Birds commonly seen include bald eagles, owls, falcons, ravens, ducks, geese, swans, seabirds, shorebirds, and passerines. Sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, and migratory whales use shores and offshore waters.

  • Brown Bears

    Brown Bear

    With an abundant supply of salmon, berries, ground squirrels, and carrion, the Refuge provides excellent habitat for numerous brown bears. Bears use nearly all Refuge lands, from mountain tops to the sea coast. Depending on weather conditions and food supply, bears usually leave their dens in April or May and return in October or November. Some bears will den much later, or not at all, if adequate food sources are available.

  • Caribou

    Caribou

    The Northern Alaska Peninsula caribou herd is one of 13 major herds within the state. Herd size fluctuates naturally and has varied from 2,000 to 20,000 animals during the last half of the 20th century. The herd migrates up to 200 miles from spring calving grounds between Ugashik and Port Moller, to winter range extending from the Meshik Valley to the Naknek River.

  • Moose

    Bull Moose in Winter

    Moose are relative newcomers to the Alaska Peninsula. They have been observed since the early 1900s, but did not become abundant until the 1950s. Moose travel seasonally to breeding, calving, and wintering areas. Migration varies from a few miles to 50 miles during these periods. These huge deer stand 5-7 feet at the shoulder, with long legs that make movement through wet tundra, shallow ponds, and limited snow relatively easy. Moose browse on vegetation, especially willow, birch, and aspen. Although they appear harmless, moose can be very dangerous, especially females with young. Do not approach too closely or you may be charged.

  • Birds

    Immature Bald Eagle in Flight

    More than 200 species of birds have been observed on or near the Refuge, of which 45 bird species are year-round bird residents. The Refuge provides important spring and fall staging areas and moderately good breeding habitat for many species. The cliffs, bays, and poorly-drained lowlands provide abundant habitat for millions of birds, particularly seabirds, waterfowl, and shorebirds that use the Refuge primarily as a staging area during migration to and from nesting grounds in the Arctic. Seabirds also use the Refuge for breeding. Numerous ponds, lakes, streams, and wetlands on the Peninsula provide ample breeding habitat for a number of species. In the summer, migratory songbirds and raptors make use of the abundant shrub lands, tundra, and forest environments on the Refuge.

  • Salmon

    Sockeye Salmon

    Many of the salmon from the world’s most valuable sockeye salmon fishery (Bristol Bay) spawn in the streams that originate on Refuge lands. The ecosystem of the Refuge is fueled by massive runs of salmon that enrich freshwater streams and lakes with nutrients from the ocean. All five species of Pacific salmon (king, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum) spawn in the streams and lakes on the Refuge. The runs begin in June and continue into September in Bristol Bay.

  • Habitat

    Beach at Puale Bay

    Becharof Refuge contains many unique geologic and scenic features. Active Mount Peulik emerges from a landscape of volcanic flows, old craters, and hot springs. Nearby Ukinrek Maars mark where groundwater met magma, with explosive results. The tilted layers of the coastal mountains tell silent stories of tectonic activity and ancient life over eons. Glaciers have left their mark in gravelly moraines and scoured mountain basins, while scarps in the lowlands show changes in enormous Becharof Lake’s level over time. From brushy wetlands to snow-pressed alpine vegetation, the Refuge provides pristine habitat to many significant fish and wildlife resources, and offers many subsistence and recreational opportunities.

Page Photo Credits — Caribou Crossing Becharof Lake Below Mt. Peulik, Jim Wittkop/USFWS, Brown Bear, Bob Dreeszen, Caribou, Dominique Watts/USFWS, Bull Moose in Winter, Dominique Watts/USFWS, Immature Bald Eagle in Flight, Bob Dreeszen, Sockeye Salmon, Bret Greenheck/USFWS, Beach at Puale Bay, Marla Greanya/USFWS
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2014
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