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I knew what I wanted for my 50th birthday...a trip back to the Great Alaska lodge....
Wildlife viewing opportunities on the Kenai Peninsula
The Kenai Peninsula's amazing wildlife viewing opportunities are nearly endless. Here is a very brief list of some of the resident (or semi-resident and migratory) species that you may hope to see during one of Great Alaska's great nature adventures.. For information on the species available during YOUR time frame, call our office at 800 544 2261 or email us 24/7.
Alaskan Brown Bears: Of course any wildlife discussion in Alaska begins and ends with the mighty Coastal Brown Bear (Ursus Arctos). Ranging nearly every part of the Kenai Peninsula, brown emerge from their dens in early to late April (depending upon weather conditions) and begin feeding on the succulent sedges grasses around our private bear viewing camp. The young cubs, often twins or triplets (depending upon the scarcity of food the previous summer) begin not much larger than a hamster nursing and soon learn their parents omnivorous ways and grow rapidly. By the time the Silver Salmon and Chum Salmon return to our local streams the young bears are ready to learn to fish and put on the winter coat of fat they will need to survive the cold long winter.
Kenai Peninsula Moose: the Kenai peninsula has long held a reputation as the destination for big Moose (the largest member of the Deer family...Alces Alces) - since the late 1800's, adventurers, Museum curators and of course sportsmen have traveled here to find literally the largest Moose in the world. During your stay on the peninsula you can expect to see a few of the less shy individuals....May and June make for the best viewing as they are hungry after a long winter and not shy about feeding near the roads and trails of our area. The large and impressive males, however do not grow their antlers (other than whales, the fasting growing tissue in the animal Kingdom) until mid summer and they grow more and more reticent about showing themselves as the summer progresses. As you can see in the picture then can be a bit cranky after a long winter, and really...who can blame them?
The Kenai Peninsula has three different herds of Woodland Caribou...in the early spring, the Kenai Herd is scattered as they give birth to this seasons young calves, however the Kenai Flats area (just inland from the mouth of the Kenai) is a popular one for our guests as the often can see the beautiful animals at not too great a distance. Our fishing guides also see the smaller groups on the lowest portion of the Kenai River, and it's not unusual to see them crossing the river with the young calves in tow.
Caribou, like Moose, are members of the deer family, and grow their incredible antlers up until early fall. The males of the species offer some of the most impressive headgear you are likely to find anywhere in the animal kingdom. Late summer trips offer the photographer the best opportunity to get some really impressive photos.a non-migratory
The Birds of the Kenai: The Kenai is home to an incredible variety of birds- In fact it is on the "wish list" of every serious or casual birder on the planet!
Raptors: Of course the Kenai is legendary for it's population of Bald Eagles, but that is not the end of raptors on the Kenai. Immature Bald Eagles (they get their white plumage in year 4 generally) are often mistaken for the occasional Golden Eagle that also frequent our area. The nesting population of Bald eagles has rebounded with a bang in the last 20 years and you'll see numerous nests any time you are on the Kenai. The Scenic upper Kenai river float is the best place to see them in number. In addition you may see Coopers Hawks, Sharp Skinned Hawks and of course the amazing Osprey.
Sea Birds: Our trips often spot Tufted and Common Puffin, Oyster catchers, Black faced and Red Faced Cormorants, Common Murre, Pigeon Guillemot, Harlequin Ducks, and much, much more. The boreal forests are home to Cooper's Hawk and Sharp skinned hawks, Arctic Terns, Common and Hooded Mergansers Glaucous Wing Gulls, Bonaparte gulls, Wood Ducks and the spectacular Common Loon (they are in no way common!) as well as dozens and dozens of migratory songbirds. Every day of our Greatland Safari, National Park Safari and Wilderness Safaris offer the opportunity to add one or more of these sightings to your "life book"!
The Kenai's Marine Mammals
This is a large category that some spend their life pursuing. Great Alaska adventure Lodge safaris and combination itineraries all provide our guests the opportunity to see some or more of these species in the wild. Kenai Fjords National Park is the summer home for many of these amazing species, and where you'll enjoy a spectacular glacier and wildlife cruise among hanging and tidewater glaciers, towering sheer rock faces high forests shrouded in perpetual mist. In addition to the incredible scenery, multiple whale species (Humpback, Minke, Gray and Pilot whales among them) frequent the area in the summer. In addition, Dall's porpoise and Resident and migratory groups of Orca also inhabit the local waters. The very best opportunity to see porpoise and whales up close is in Resurrection Bay and the Kenai Fjords Park waters. Humpbacks & grays frequent the bays to feed on the abundant plankton while porpoise will almost always seek you out to ride in the bow wave in front of the boat. Orcas populate the entire area feeding on the abundant salmon returning to spawn in the local streams. Whether you are in a small private boat, on a fishing charter in the outer bay or on one of the larger tour boats your chances of encountering many if not all of these mammals is almost assured.
Wild Pacific Salmon
Of all the species of wildlife that make Alaska home, none is more impressive or Alaskan than the Salmon. Their life stories would make a Hollywood action hero seem tame in comparison. While reproducing 100% naturally in the vast majority of our flowing waters, the Kenai Sockeye Salmon reigns supreme. After hatching from their redd (nest), the young are immediately hunted by predatory birds (Arctic Terns, Bonaparte's Gulls, Common Merganser, among others). After two years in the freshwater they allow the cold glacial water to flush them downstream towards Cook inlet and a whole new class of predator! At this age they are roughly 9 inches long and ready to take care of themselves (of course they never knew their parents, as they gave their life to give them theirs). This is just the beginning of their story, which ends 2 or 3 years later as a small percentage of these same fish return to the very streams their parents fought their way to 4 or 5 years earlier. Now the gauntlet of Bears, Eagles, Harbor Seals, Orca (and of course, Man) would give a brave person pause.....and with their last iota of strength they give up their body to provide a safe haven for the eggs they have so painstakingly laid, fertilized and covered with gravel to protect.
But make it back they do..and spectacularly! These fish are the motor that drives the entire Alaska ecosystem...they are so important that the DNA of the salmon has been recorded in the highest leaves of trees 20 feet back from the river's edge. Our scenic float on the upper Kenai (on the Greatland Safari, National Park Safari and Family Adventure Safari) is the perfect way to see this incredible drama play out for yourself. July, August and September are the peak times to see the salmon at the numerous best and in their crimson spawning colors. Amazing.