U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service logo A Unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System
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National Wildlife Refuge

The Western Arctic Caribou herd migrate through the refuge twice a year.
160 2nd Ave
P.O. Box 270
Kotzebue, AK   99752
E-mail: selawik@fws.gov
Phone Number: 907-442-3799
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Caribou crossing the Selawik River
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  Wildlife and Habitat

Continued . . .

In addition to the freshwater wetlands, ponds, marshes and streams that form the Selawik River flats; the refuge encompasses the coastal wetlands formed by the Selawik and Kobuk river deltas, and the surrounding uplands of the Selawik Hills and the Waring Mountains. A system of coastal estuaries and brackish lakes define the western portion of the refuge and provide essentially pristine staging, resting, and breeding areas for migratory waterfowl as well as a host of other migratory birds. Wildland fires are an important component of the Selawik ecosystem. These naturally-occurring fires create earlysuccessional habitats, release nutrients from burned vegetation, and create a mosaic of habitats that support moose, caribou, wolves, furbearers, small mammals, and a wide variety of other wildlife.

Selawik refuge is within the range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd. One of the largest herds in Alaska, this magnificent herd migrates through the refuge on their way between calving and wintering grounds. The Selawik Refuge is a critical undeveloped travel corridor for the herd and is essential to the health and productivity of the herd. Other ungulates found on the refuge include moose, which began using the refuge around the 1940s, and occasionally musk-oxen. The refuge also supports both black and brown [grizzly] bears due to the presence of both forest and tundra habitats.

Refuge wetlands and lakes are among the last stopping areas for thousands of shorebirds during their migration to breeding locations in the high arctic. Common species include, Pacific golden plovers, semi-palmated and western sandpipers, red-necked phalaropes, and whimbrels. Tundra Swans, greater white-fronted geese, lesser Canada geese, and sandhill cranes are some of the waterfowl that appear on the refuge in the spring and fall, taking advantage of the long hours of sunlight that thaw refuge wetlands and waterways.

Fisheries on the refuge are also diverse. The Selawik and Kobuk River drainages support large populations of resident and anadromous fish. Sheefish and other whitefish are the primary species harvested for subsistence purposes. Northern pike, burbot, Arctic grayling, and Dolly Varden are also found on the refuge.

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