Rules and Regulations

Hunting for caribou with students

The Selawik National Wildlife Refuge is open to the public year-round. There are no entrance fees or refuge-specific permits required for personal activities such as hunting, fishing, berry picking, snowmachining, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, or photography. Regulations guiding these personal activities on the refuge are generally the same as elsewhere in the region.


The following is a brief summary of regulations for common activities on the refuge. It is your responsibility to know the rules and regulations that apply to you. Please read this page and contact us if you have questions.

  • For additional information, visit our "quick look" regulation summaries page where you can find fact sheets on topics of frequent interest (see links to the left).
  • For commercial activities, special events, or research, please visit our permits page. 


State of Alaska Hunting and Fishing Regulations
Kid fishing with rod and reelMost hunting, fishing, and trapping activities on Selawik Refuge are governed by regulations established by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Check out the ADFG regulations page to learn about specific regulations and to buy licenses and tags online. The Selawik Refuge and Kotzebue lie within Game Management Unit 23. In most cases, these State of Alaska regulations are the ones you need to follow if you live outside the Northwest Arctic Borough and want to hunt or fish on the refuge.  The State of Alaska regulations are also the ones everyone needs to follow when hunting or fishing on state or private lands (including Native corporation lands).  Hunters should take care to follow all regulations relating to meat care and salvage, as this is an important issue of respectful resource use among local residents. Check out the online Game Management Unit 23 hunter orientation for more information.

Hunting and fishing licenses can be purchased in Kotzebue and in most villages in the region. Low income and elder (lifetime) licenses are available to Alaska residents. Please call the Alaska Department of Fish and Game office in Kotzebue at 442-3420 for more information.

Federal Subsistence Hunting and Fishing Regulations
Fishing GearFor residents of Game Management Unit 23, the State of Alaska hunting and fishing regulations are the ones you need to follow if you are hunting or fishing on state or private lands (including Native corporation lands).  However, all GMU 23 residents are also eligible to hunt and fish under federal subsistence regulations, which in a few cases differ significantly from state regulations. You need a state hunting license (but not a fishing license) to participate under the federal system, as well as applicable state harvest tickets or registration permits in most cases. Federal subsistence regulations ONLY apply on federal public lands (generally U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, or National Park Service lands) and not on state, Alaska Native corporation, or privately-owned lands. You can find out more about federal subsistence regulations from the Federal Office of Subsistence Management.

Private Lands Within the Refuge
There are extensive areas of privately-owned lands within the boundaries of Selawik Refuge, especially in the Kobuk River delta and lower Selawik River. Many of these lands are owned by NANA, the regional Alaska Native corporation, who received them through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Please visit NANA's lands page to learn more about the location of these lands and the rules regarding their use.

Many other privately-owned parcels of land, mostly Native allotments, are scattered throughout the refuge. Few of these are marked or signed. If you see any alteration of the land, including structures, drying racks or cleared areas, take these as indicators of private land and avoid trespassing. Entry onto private lands is only allowed with prior approval from landowners. It is the visitor’s responsibility to learn about land status and obtain approval prior to entering non-refuge lands.

 Click here to view a general map of land status on the Selawik Refuge.

Snowmobiles, Motorboats, and AirplanesSnowmobile group
You are allowed to use snowmobiles, motorboats, and airplanes on federal lands in Selawik Refuge, as long as it is for personal, and not commercial, purposes. Commercial activities require a special use permit. Pilots should fly at a sufficient altitude to avoid disturbing wildlife, camps, communities, and other users on the ground.

All-Terrain Vehicles
All-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and off-road vehicles (ORVs) are not allowed anywhere on federal lands in Selawik Refuge. These include “Hondas,” four-wheelers, motorcycles, airboats, amphibious machines, or any similar vehicles.

Archeological and Paleontological Resourcesold camp building
Lands that are now part of Selawik Refuge have been the home of the Iñupiat for thousands of years. Because of this, many historic and prehistoric dwellings and campsites are found in the area. It is illegal to disturb these sites or remove artifacts from them. While we encourage an appreciation of the region’s history, it is important to leave these sites undisturbed so that historic information is not lost.

Paleontological resources, such as mammoth tusks and teeth, fossils, or other remains from extinct, ancient life, are also protected under federal law. It is illegal to remove these from federal lands in Selawik Refuge.

Antlers and Other Natural Resources
You are allowed to pick up and keep antlers and most other natural resources (grass, bark, rocks, plants, animal bones, etc.) from federal lands in the refuge, as long as these are for personal, and not commercial, purposes.

Firewood and House LogsFirewood cut logs
On refuge lands, you are allowed to freely collect driftwood or dead standing wood. You are also allowed to freely cut live trees with trunks less than 3 inches wide at chest height. For live trees that are between 3 and 6 inches wide at chest height, you are allowed to cut up to 20 trees per year. No permit is needed for any of the above wood gathering.  If you want more or larger live trees, please contact the Selawik Refuge office to apply for a permit.

Cabins and Structures

You are not allowed to build cabins or other permanent structures on Selawik Refuge lands. Temporary facilities related to hunting and fishing, such as wall tent frames, fish racks, or meat hanging racks, are allowed without a permit, but must be removed at the end of the season. Tent platforms require a special use permit.

Research and Scientific Studies
All research and scientific studies on Selawik Refuge lands require a special use permit. Visit our permits page to learn more.