Wildlife & Habitat


The wildlife of the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge includes a hardy array of resident and migratory mammals, waterfowl, songbirds, shorebirds, and fishes. The refuge includes diverse habitats, and various wildlife species use the available boreal forests, wetlands, open grass and sedge meadows, and Arctic tundra.

  • Mammals


    Many mammals make their home on Selawik Refuge.  Furbearers of all sizes are found here, alongside bears and herbivores such as moose and muskoxen. The Western Arctic Caribou Herd, the largest herd in Alaska at 244,000 animals, roams through the Selawik valley seasonally.  Conservation of this caribou herd is one of the special purposes of Selawik  Refuge.  Click on "learn more" to view a list of terrestrial (land) mammal species found on Selawik Refuge.

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  • Birds


    Spring means birds, coming to the arctic to nest.  Myriad varieties of waterfowl and shorebirds breed on the Selawik Refuge and others pass through on their migrations, including some asiatic species rare in the rest of the USA.  During the winter months, a handful of hardy species remain, including ptarmigan, jays, and snow buntings.  Click on "learn more" to view a list of bird species found on Selawik Refuge, including abundance information and breeding status.

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  • Fish

    Two Frozen Sheefish in the snow

    With all the aquatic habitats in the Kobuk River delta and lower Selawik River, fish populations are abundant.  The upper Selawik River is the spawning grounds for one of the two sheefish populations of the region.  Sheefish, for which Selawik is named, is one of the important wildlife species the refuge was set aside to protect.  Other important fish include salmon, northern pike, whitefish, cisco and burbot.  Click on "learn more" to view a list of fish species found on Selawik Refuge.

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  • Little Critters

    Water strider insect

    Many larger animals are able to thrive here thanks to the abundance of small animals that form a critical part of the food web.  All kinds of invertebrates live in the water, including insect larvae and zooplankton.  These feed many small fish and birds.  Insects and spiders also abound on the tundra and its associated wetlands, many of them not well studied or documented.  Recently a visiting dragonfly scientist was able to document range extensions for several species.  Wood frogs are the sole amphibian species hardy enough to make their home here, freezing solid each winter and waking up when they defrost!  No reptiles are found in Alaska.

  • Habitats

    Wetlands in northeast Selawik Refuge

    The heart of Selawik Refuge is a vast complex of wetlands and lowlands that provide rich habitat for many plants and animals.  At over two million acres, though, Selawik Refuge comprises a wide variety of landscapes and terrains that offer homes to suit the needs of many of Alaska's creatures.  Click "learn more" to view a photo gallery of the refuge's scenery.

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  • Alaska Wildlife Notebook

    The Alaska Wildlife Notebook series, produced by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, is a great source of information about many of the animals that live here, from big game to birds, fish, and furbearers.  Click "learn more" below to link to the Wildlife Notebook page.

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