Facility Rules and Policies
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. You do need to have a hunting, fishing, or trapping license if you're doing those activities, and you'll need to know the bag limits and season dates. Commercial activities and research do require a permit. Read more on our full "rules and policies" page.
Most 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. The Selawik Refuge and Kotzebue lie within Game Management Unit 23.
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, or use the online license site to buy licenses, permits and tags.
State regulations apply on privately-owned lands within refuge boundaries, including Native corporation lands and allotments. Ensure you have permission from land owners prior to hunting or camping on private lands. See our maps section on this page to learn more.
Residents of Game Management Unit 23 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.
- Snowmobiles, Motorboats, and Airplanes: 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.
- 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 Resources: 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. 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 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 as long as it is for personal use. 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.
Activities Requiring a Permit: Permits are required for all commercial operations, scientific research, and collection activities on refuge lands and waters. Examples of activities that require a Refuge permit include:
- Guiding (hunting, fishing, paddling, birdwatching etc.)
The Selawik Refuge accepts permit applications for non-hunting recreational guiding during two periods each year: January 1 – March 15 and October 1 – November 30
- Air taxi and water taxi services
The Selawik Refuge accepts permit applications for air taxis and boat charters during two periods each year: January 1 – March 15 and October 1 – November 30
- Scientific research
- Wood cutting (permit not required for personal use of dead trees, trees under 3” diameter, and up to 20 trees between 3 and 6 inches)
- Educational events
- Dog sled races
- Any other Commercial Services that occur on Refuge Lands or Waters
The type of permit application required and the deadline for submittal vary by activity. Most commercial activity permits require a $100 administrative fee. Contact Selawik Refuge staff by email or phone (907-442-3799) for more information about permit requirements and the application process. Additional information on permits, and forms, can be found at https://www.fws.gov/service/special-use-permits-national-wildlife-refuges
Activities Allowed Without a Permit:
Generally, permits are not required for the public to visit or access Selawik National Wildlife Refuge. Some activities that do not require a Refuge permit include:
- Hunting and Fishing (state and federal regulations do apply and a license may be required, as described above);
- Berry picking
- Wildlife watching/Photography