Seasons of Wildlife


The refuge is a flurry of activity during the spring, summer and fall to make up for the extended winter season. 

  • March-April

    Owl surveys take place along the Dillingham's road system in March and April. By mid-March the antlers of bull moose and caribou begin to grow. In April the arrival of spring migratory birds is documented in Dillingham and field camps. The Cape Peirce field camp opens to monitor marine mammals, seabirds, and waterfowl. Area waterfowl surveys are taken over the refuge coastline.

    In April the ice begins to break up creating open water once again. By late April the brown bears are emerging from their dens. Late April to mid-May is the peak of herring spawning and the Togiak commerical herring fishing season. From April into June the trout spawning typically peaks.

  • May

    Staff begin monitoring the productivity of cliff-nesting seabirds at Cape Peirce. Along refuge rivers Harlequin Duck breeding pair surveys are taken. The numbers of Steller Sea Lions in Bristol Bay peak or are at near peak. Gray Whale numbers along Togiak Bay and the Cape Peirce area peak as they migrate north. Northern pike spawning typically peaks.

    Mid-May to early June the Nushagak Peninsula caribou are calving. Mid-May to mid-June the moose are calving. May to June is typically the peak of spawning for arctic grayling. Late May and into June the Chinook or king salmon begin to enter area rivers.

  • June


    The commercial salmon fishery begins with activity fluctuating based on run sizes and times for the five species of Pacific salmon. Subsistence set-netting for salmon begins in June and continues through August.

    Breeding Bird Surveys are carried out. At Cape Peirce the populations of cliff-nesting seabirds are monitored. Throughout the refuge, raptor nest activity is documented, primarily for bald eagles.

    Seal pups are born on haulouts along the refuge coastline.

  • July

    Monitoring of cliff-nesting seabird populations at Cape Peirce is wrapped up. Raptor nest productivity documentation continues. Walrus numbers in Bristol Bay and at the refuge peak or are at near peak.

    Dolly Varden and sockeye, pink and chum salmon return to area rivers for spawning. Local residents pick berries as they ripen: salmonberries, blueberries, huckleberries, and cranberries in July and August.

  • August

    Spawning peaks for chinook salmon early in the month and by mid-month for chum salmon. In August Coho salmon return to area rivers. Seal numbers peak and seal molt begins. Late August is the spawning peak for pink salmon. Late August to early September is when moose and caribou bulls shed velvet from their antlers. August to September is usually the peak of lake trout and sockeye salmon spawning. 

  • September

    At Cape Peirce the monitoring the productivity of cliff-nesting seabirds is finished. Local residents hunt waterfowl. September to October spawning peaks for Dolly Varden, Arctic char and coho salmon. Late September to early-October is the peak for moose and caribou rut.

  • October

    Cape Peirce field camp closes. Area waters begin to freeze and ice over. By late October brown bears may begin entering their winter dens.

  • Winter (Nov-Mar)


    Throughout November adult bull caribou are casting or dropping their antlers. Late November thorugh January bull moose are casting antlers. Local residents might be found seining/netting for smelt.

    The subsistence harvest of fur bearing animals begins for fox, hare, beaver and martin. Ptarmigan and grouse are also hunted during the winter. 

    Once the ice has solidly set ice fishing for overwintering Dolly Varden, Arctic char, rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, smelt, northern pike, and burbot begins. Local residents fish in many areas.

    In January brown bears give birth in their winter dens. Cubs are born weighing 1 1/2 pounds and suckle while their mother is dormant.

    This is the time when coastal Native Alaskans traditionally harvest marine mammals including seals and walrus.