I’ve always loved animals. It’s true…I’ve spent all of my life in the company of animals. And not just my kids when they are acting like wild ones or when their rooms look like a pig pen. I love being around actual animals.
My inability to say no to animals is why we’ve adopted countless dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds and fish over the years. Each had a name and each was loved.
It’s also why I currently have Candace’s German Sheppard, Rogue (Mom, she’s too big for my apartment), soon Haley’s Pomeranian, Ted (Mom, I can’t bear to watch him get old and die), and my loyal 12 year old, Keeshond, Rio. Yup, I’m a sap.
Looking Into An Animal’s Eyes
There’s just something therapeutic about animals. I love it when the dogs come up for a pet (which seems to happen pretty much every time I’m trying to get something done). You can tell what they are thinking just by looking into their eyes. Rogue in particular expresses excitement, contentment, shame, and love just by the look in her eyes.
It’s the same thing with wildlife. I love watching animals in nature and am always looking at the details of their faces. Underwater, I’ve looked into the flat eyes of sharks, timid eyes of reef fish, unpredictable eyes of eels, and intelligent eyes of dolphins.
In Alaska, wildlife viewing is one of my favorite things to do. Jeff and the kids love it too.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center was the destination for Summer’s birthday in July. It brought us a chance to look into the eyes of some of Alaska’s wildlife that have been rescued, injured, or orphaned and are now resident’s of this 140 acre refuge.
We parked at the Visitor’s Center and opted for a 1 1/2 mile saunter along the road, while stopping at the viewing points and fences on the way. Although the animals were penned, it’s a wildlife watcher’s dream: bears, moose, musk-ox, caribou and more all in one place.
First stop was a herd of elk. They were very interested in looking at us looking at them!
This was followed by a close encounter with a moose calf. This one was orphaned on the Kenai peninsula. Moose calves are so cute, and this adorable guy had the softest eyes as he lay there in the sun.
In another pen, larger moose named Nelson and Teddy stood in the shade near the fence. I wanted to reach out and pet this one as he was about 4 feet away, but sanely resisted the urge.
(These lanky ungulates are one of my favorite animals. I look for them constantly!)
Muskox roamed their pens, shedding shaggy ropes of fur. These giants exuded their power and ancient roots as they grazed lazily against a mountain backdrop.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center raises bison for reintroduction into the wild. A herd was just released a week before we arrived. This little guy seemed content to soak up some sun.
After viewing the non-predators, we made our way to the bears. It’s curious that what we fear often fascinates us the most. (Have I mentioned I’m scared of bears?) I’m also mesmerized by them.
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center-Da Bears
There are two brown bears, Joe Boxer and Patron, 1 grizzly, Hugo, and two black bears Kuma and ? wandering through their separate species pads. A walkway meanders between the two pens offering both elevated and close up views.
Kuma was quite the poser!
The brown bears? Well, they haunt my dreams. (If you are curious why, check out this post.) Those are eyes I’m hoping I never get too close a view of in the wild! They are magnificent to watch though.
At one point, Bridger and I were down by the lower fence when one of the bears approached us. We couldn’t have been more than five feet away.
Hormones appear to run deep in both species as Bridger and the bear stared each other down. Just watching the bear’s eyes, I was pretty sure he was browsing the menu and said, “Yes, I’ll take that one!”
Bridger in all his teenage wisdom huffed at the bear and the bear huffed back while swiping a paw in Bridger’s direction. It was spine chilling to watch! Standing frozen, I forgot to take a picture.
Then the show down ended and the bear walked away. I was relieved there was a fence.
As we walked back to the car, the kids chattered about all the animals. Me? I was still stuck on the bear’s eyes! It was a great day at a place that does so much good for animals. And for me, it was a chance to see enchanting animal expressions punctuated by the animal’s beautiful eyes.
**Tip: The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is about 50 miles south of Anchorage, past Girdwood. It’s open year round and costs $12.50 for adults, and $9.00 for kids 13-18. Under 12 are free. It is well worth the price and a perfect activity for kids (and adults). You can walk it or drive it and park at various pens.