Seasons of Wildlife

Sandhill crane

No matter the season, Alaska is a rugged and awe inspiring place. Wildlife abounds across the landscape in every season on the Refuge.

  • Spring

    Harlequin duck

    As daylight swiftly increases, thousands of migratory birds appear. Seabirds mass offshore near the cliffs where they will raise young. Swans collect in the Naknek River near Refuge headquarters, pairing off and re-occupying the tundra’s pothole lakes as they thaw. Naknek River is a way station for geese and ducks, some moving farther north, others preparing for the nesting season nearby. Swallows arrive as the insects hatch.

    Bears wake from hibernation, hungry, as do smaller mammals like marmots, all taking advantage of newly emergent vegetation. Ptarmigan shed winter white for summer camouflage, raucously calling from atop brush. A slow, delicate flush of green touches the landscape as buds begin to open.

  • Summer

    Salmon Underwater

    Summer on the Refuge is a busy season.  All birds, fish, and mammals are out and about. Close behind them are researchers studying their habits, anglers trying to catch a couple of fish, and lone adventurers with cameras in hand. Insects swarm by the million, supporting young birds and fish. Flowers bloom quickly and form fruit, in haste to stay ahead of winter.

    Temperatures can occasionally soar to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, but are more commonly between 40 and 60 degrees. With the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Bering Sea’s Bristol Bay on the other, summer’s warmth is tempered and often damp. Dustings of snow and touches of frost can happen even at this time of year.

  • Fall

    Brown Bear (3)

    The plants of the tundra and uplands blush rose and rust as colder temperatures follow shorter days. Many songbirds have long since fled south, while other birds change locations, working their way toward winter havens. The carcasses of salmon collect in the streams, food for insects, wolves, bears, fox, eagles, and other scavengers. Fall hunting draws visitors to the Refuge, while angling for Dolly Varden char, rainbow trout, and grayling remains excellent.

  • Winter

    Caribou Running

    Short days and long nights mark the winter season. The ground cracks with frost. Ice thickens over rivers and lakes. Moose and caribou gather together and move in search of winter feed and shelter. Wolves are close on their heels. Volcanoes steam and rumble beneath the snow.