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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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Selawik National Wildlife Refuge

It could be argued that Selawik National Wildlife Refuge contains some of the most historically significant acreage in North America, as the refuge lands once formed part of the American portion of the vast Bering Land Bridge that, some scientists speculate, was the route followed by the ancestors of many of today's large mammals, as well as early humans, when traveling between Asia and the Americas some 12,000 years ago.

Today, the refuge is home to a variety of wildlife. Hundreds of thousands of caribou from the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, the largest in Alaska, travel through the refuge in spring and fall. Portions of the herd sometimes winter in the area. Moose, brown bear, wolverine and other furbearers are present year-round. Selawik's approximately 24,000 lakes and wetlands also serve as breeding or stop-over resting places for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds, some arriving from as far away as Australia. And, in addition to the sheefish that gave the refuge its name, whitefish, arctic grayling and northern pike are present in Selawik's waters.

Getting There . . .
To reach the refuge one usually takes a commercial air service from Anchorage to Kotzebue; Kotzebue cannot be reached by road. From Kotzebue, visitors generally travel into the refuge by small bush aircraft or snowmobile (in winter). Air taxi operators also provide service to the refuge from Galena, which has air access from Fairbanks. The refuge office is in Kotzebue at 160 2nd Avenue and is within walking distance of the airport. Exit the airport left to Third Avenue. Go right on Third to Lake Street. Go left to Second Avenue, then turn right. The office is in the middle of the block on the right. Taxi service from the airport to the refuge office is also available.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Selawik Refuge is an awe-inspiring land of vast tundra, spruce forest, birch and alder lined foothills. The sweeping waterways and wetlands give shelter and provide habitat for a wide array of migratory and resident arctic fauna. Because the Selawik refuge is in the transition zone where the northernmost boreal forest gives way to true arctic tundra, there are a diverse array of fish and wildlife species found here. More than 30 mammal, 10 fish, and 160 bird species can be found on the refuge at various times of the year.

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Selawik National Wildlife Refuge is located in remote northwestern Alaska. The Refuge is encompassed by an arctic landscape rich in cultural heritage and natural beauty. Northwest Alaska has played a key role in North American history as a travel route, as a home for northern peoples, a rich trapping ground, and as a reindeer herding area, to name just a few topics of historical interest. Like many other National Parks, Preserves, and Refuges, the Selawik Refuge was officially established in 1980 with the passage of ANILCA  The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. This land designation and subsequent management by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the most recent chapter in the long history of this northern landscape.

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Management Activities
On Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, resource values are maintained by natural processes. The refuge's wildlife and habitat are monitored by refuge staff to ensure that these values are not compromised. Much of this habitat is tundra, with approximately 24,000 lakes and wetlands. These support an abundance of wildlife, including songbirds, waterfowl and mammals. Hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, tundra swans, loons, sandhill cranes and other water birds and shorebirds nest here annually.