I have a walking route that I take in the mornings that’s about 3 1/2 miles long. It winds through a neighborhood, down to the edge of the Palmer Hayflats Wildlife Refuge. Then the road heads up a hill with little traffic, lined by thick forests. It crosses over Wasilla Creek a couple of times too. The walk provides me with ample opportunity to view Alaska wildlife. Mainly moose and birds, sometimes a fish in the stream, but it’s beautiful and invigorating.
The other morning while I was passing through the neighborhood, I noticed a black, German Shepherd type dog run up to a porch in front of me, watching as I walked by. I kept walking, but got that tingling, hair on the back of neck standing up sensation that something was following me. I turned around, and sure enough, the dog was full on stalking me! I’ve only ever seen wolves do that on the Discovery channel, never a dog 20 yards away from ripping into my calf!
I yelled at it to go home and pointed my finger. Miraculously, the dog went back (maybe my scary Mom voice). But it was a little creepy all the same. It reinforced one lesson I have learned quickly about Alaska wildlife in my short time here: it’s always good to regularly look behind you!
Before the midnight sun took over (with the sunrise now at 4 a.m.), I drove down to the hayflats at around 6:30 one morning in early spring to look for some moose. I spotted one almost immediately and began to take photos.
After a couple of minutes, I turned around to the field behind me to find that there were 5 moose grazing within 100 yards of the road! Big Surprise! I’m glad they were more interested in their food than me! I could have kicked myself for the amateur tourist mistake. Just like a traffic stop, I should have looked both ways before stopping the car and getting out.
It happened again in Denali National Park on an early season road trip we took up there. We were about 14 miles into the park when we saw a couple of vehicles pulled over, with people out of the car glassing. That’s a pretty good sign that there’s something interesting to see, so we pulled over.
A quick look revealed a blonde grizzly sow and a likely 2-year-old cub about 1/3 mile out grazing in some willows (Jeff has some really powerful optics, my camera lens wasn’t, so that purchase will be coming shortly.) Needless to say, that was a bucket list item that I would have been happy to sit and watch ALL DAY!
But, of course…no matter how inspiring whatever you are looking at is, in Alaska, don’t forget to look behind you, or in our case if we hadn’t, we would have missed our first caribou siting!
Alaska Wildlife Safety
Yours and theirs. I am no stranger to wildlife and dealing with predators, although this is an entirely new level. It’s Yellowstone Park x 100 on a double dose of steroids! The diligence required to maintain safety for yourself and the animals is crucial to enjoying your experience or life here in Alaska.
And not just because you may have missed seeing an animal, but because of a human’s place on the food chain in Alaska. Jeff has friends who while hunting and stalking caribou, happened to turn around to find a grizzly stalking them. That’s kind of my biggest fear!
It’s a lesson even as a lifelong outdoor adventurer I’ve learned quickly…when it comes to Alaska wildlife, heighten everything you thought you knew about behavior in the wild. Always use your senses, pay close attention to your surroundings, and don’t forget to occasionally look behind you. What you find, may just surprise you!