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National Wildlife Refuge

There are no roads on the Refuge, access is limited to small aircraft, watercraft, snowmobiles, and dogsled.
101 12th Ave.
Fairbanks, AK   99701
E-mail: kanuti_refuge@fws.gov
Phone Number: 907-456-0329
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Float plane on Kanuti Lake
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Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge
Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge is, at 1.637 million acres, about the size of the state of Delaware. It sits atop the Arctic Circle, with approximately a third of the refuge above that meridian and two-thirds below. The refuge is a prime example of Alaska's boreal ecosystem, which is dominated by black and white spruce with some white birch and poplars.

The region's typically short, hot summers give rise to numerous thunderstorms and lightning strikes. This results in a continuous cycle of burn and recovery. Natural wildfires create diverse habitats with different plant species, and levels of maturity within each species. The resulting mosaic of habitat types supports a variety of wildlife.

The refuge's migratory fish, chinook, chum and coho salmon, as well as sheefish, are creatures of extremes. Its Sheefish make the longest spawning journey of any of their species' population on record, while Kanuti's salmon travel more than 1000 miles up the Yukon before entering the Koyukuk River system to spawn. Refuge waters support twelve other fish species, including arctic grayling and northern pike.

Protecting breeding habitat for migratory birds is central to the mission of Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Nearly 130 species of birds spend part or all of the year on refuge lands. With the loss of wetlands in regions outside of Alaska, the importance of Kanuti as a nesting area for birds is likely to increase.

The refuge's boreal forest is home to 37 species of mammals, including brown and black bears, several wolf packs, moose, wolverine, beavers, muskrats, marten and mink. Caribou from the Western Arctic and Ray Mountain herds occasionally winter on Kanuti, as well.

Getting There . . .
Most visitors to the refuge come through the community of Bettles, which lies 150 air miles northwest of Fairbanks. From Bettles, air charters are available for drop-offs at lakes, rivers and gravel bars. Visitors can then access the refuge on foot or by boat. Keep in mind, however, that this is a very wet area with no developed foot trails, and that many of the refuge's upland areas are not ideal for hiking.

In winter, the refuge can be reached from the Dalton Highway using non-motorized transportation such as skis or dog teams. Snow machine access is also authorized for traditional activities; contact the refuge office for more information.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Kanuti Refuge is home to a variety of wildlife species that depend on the boreal forest and tundra ecosystems of the refuge.

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Kanuti Refuge was established in 1980 when Congress passed The Alaska National Interest Lands Conversation Act (ANILCA).

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Management Activities
Kanuti Refuge is managed to maintain its natural diversity of wildlife and habitats, and other special values. Management efforts focus primarily on inventories, surveys, research studies, and education. Part of the management challenge is to better understand the pieces and processes that make up this natural and relatively undisturbed ecosystem. Studies have investigated greater white-fronted goose breeding areas and gosling production. Other surveys track moose density and population trends, and beaver activity. A 10-year radio telemetry study collected data on wolves. Breeding bird counts document land bird use of the refuge. Staff also inventory raptors, owls, shorebirds and waterbirds throughout the summer. The importance of wetlands has been examined in a variety of projects focusing on the relationship between water chemistry, aquatic insects, waterfowl, beaver activity and plants. Remote sensing is being used to map and monitor habitat types on the refuge.

Due to the large role wildland fire plays in the ecosystem, the refuge has several ongoing projects related to fire. These studies monitor successional changes in vegetation changes and small mammal communities following fire.