Wildlife & Habitat

Applegate Cove Eel Grass

Izembek National Wildlife Refuge lies between the highly productive waters of the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Within the heart of the Refuge is Izembek Lagoon, a 30-mile long and 5-mile wide coastal ecosystem that contains one of the world's largest eelgrass (Zostera marina) beds. More than 200 species of wildlife and nine species of fish can be found on the Refuge.

  • Habitats


    Volcanism, glaciation, and marine deposition have sculpted the landscape of the Izembek Refuge. The Refuge is treeless and generally restricted to low-growing species that can withstand cool temperatures, frequent strong winds, shallow acidic soils, and short growing season.

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  • Birds

    Flock of Emperor Goose

    The entire world population of emperor geese, estimated at 70,000 individuals in 2003, migrates through Izembek Refuge each spring and fall. The Emperor goose is a Bering Sea species, nesting primarily in western Alaska and wintering along the Alaska Peninsula and throughout the Aleutian Islands. They forage on eelgrass in the lagoons, mussels and other invertebrates along the shorelines, and the abundant crowberries on the surrounding tundra. More than 20 percent of the Emperor goose population overwinters in Izembek and Kinzarof Lagoons

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  • Fish

    Salmon underwater

    Dolly Varden, Arctic char, and steelhead trout can be found in streams of the Izembek Refuge. Beginning in mid-summer, red, pink, and chum salmon return to spawning grounds within the Refuge. Hundreds of thousands of salmon begin and end their life cycles within the Refuge, enriching streams and lakes with nutrients they bring from the sea. Silver salmon arrive in early fall. Since the 1960's, an annual Silver Salmon Derby has been held in Cold Bay each Labor Day Weekend, to raise funds for the local Emergency Medical Technician Squad. It is quite the event for the small community of less than 100 residents.

  • Caribou


    The Southern Alaska Peninsula Caribou Herd ranges from Port Moller to Unimak Island. They move from the Black Hills and Caribou River calving grounds, located north of the Refuge, to the Izembek area late in the fall to spend the winter. Wolves follow the caribou, but only lucky and diligent observers will see these elusive hunters.

  • Bears

    Curious Bear

    Brown bears, giant symbols of Alaska's wilderness, make their summer home along salmon-rich streams throughout the Refuge. During peak salmon runs, as many as nine bears per mile have been observed along these streams. The Joshua Green River Valley is prime brown bear habitat, producing many of the bears that disperse throughout the southern Alaska Peninsula. Nearly one bear per square mile has been seen in this remote area during late August. In addition, the steep slopes of the Joshua Green River Valley provide world-renowned brown bear denning habitat.

  • Marine Mammals

    Marine Mammals

     Marine mammals are common in the productive waters surrounding the Refuge. Harbor seals, Steller's sea lions, and sea otters inhabit nearby coastal waters and lagoons. In August of 1999, 615 sea otters were counted in Izembek Lagoon. Harbor seals frequently haulout on sandbars in the lagoons and along the coast. Killer, gray, and minke whales can be seen as they migrate along the shoreline and, on occasion, inside of Izembek Lagoon.