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Wildlife in Alaska Puts the Continental US to Shame
Did you know that otters hold hands while they sleep? It is so they don’t float too far away from their group. Alaska Magazine

The Handy Sea Otter

I’m sure you have heard the stories of these beautiful creatures holding hands while they sleep so that they don’t float away from each other. These cute creatures are the heaviest members of the weasel family, but they are also one of the smallest marine mammals you’ll find. Sea otters also have the thickest and most dense coat of fur you will find in the Animal Kingdom, and it keeps them insulated from the cold temperatures of Alaska. Even if they can walk on land, their favorite way of transportation and their favorite habitat is the ocean, where they spend most of their lives. 

Their favorite food to catch is sea urchins, crustaceans, mollusks, and fish. There are not too many mammals species that use tools to their advantage, these handy sea otters like using rocks to open shells and dislodge prey, making it easier to get their food. Because of their love of sea urchins, they are considered a keystone species to control the sea urchin population. Without them, this can inflict extensive damage to the kelp forest ecosystems. They are a threatened species, so they are banned from hunting to save this fascinating species from extinction, and so far, the sea otter conservation efforts are working with their numbers growing in the wild. 

Wildlife in Alaska Puts the Continental US to Shame
These Alaska creatures may look aggressive, but they rarely attack humans. CNN

The Big Bad Wolf?

They’ve been the villains in a few fairy tale stories, but the Grey Wolf is not the big baddie that some people think they are. This wolf is the largest extant member of Canidae, with males weighing approximately 88 pounds and females around 82 pounds. The grey wolf is considered the most specialized for cooperative game hunting because of its capacity to take prey bigger than them in packs, be social, and have expressive behavior. They also are incredibly territorial and will fight anything that invades their habitat. However, the interesting thing is that they don’t need to be in packs to be a strong force in Alaska. 

They can easily take down their big prey alone or with a partner, and their success rate is even higher than when they are in packs. That might be a reason why some cubs separate from their family when they grow up, and sometimes they end up establishing their own smaller packs. Even with their hunting skills and having a bad rap in society, Wolf attacks on humans are extremely rare, and when there are attacks, it’s because of rabies. They feared humans because of their experiences with hunters, ranchers, and shepherds. So who’s the bad wolf now?

Wildlife in Alaska Puts the Continental US to Shame
Did you know that a narwhal’s horn can range from four to ten feet long! It provides great protection. National Geographic

The Unicorn of the Sea

Unicorns might not exist in real life, but the beautiful Narwhal does, and it’s a beauty to behold. They live in cold Arctic waters, and they are one of two living species of whale in the family Monodontidae with the beluga whale. People are mesmerized by their horns, making them look like a fantasy creature from a medieval book. However, that large tusk is just a protruding canine tooth that projects from the upper jaw’s left side and forms that helix spiral. What’s even more interesting is that its horn keeps growing throughout its life.

Their tusk can reach to be about 4.9 to 10 feet long! It’s completely hollow, but it’s still cumbersome, and it can weigh up to 22 pounds. What’s even more fascinating and rarer is that one in every 500 male narwhals has two tusks when the fight canine also grows through the lip. It is also sporadic to see a female with a tusk too, and only about 15% has it, and it’s smaller than the male one and with a less noticeable spiral. Since they don’t reside in just one place, it’s a bit rare to see them, but you might get lucky if you are in the far south of the Alaska Peninsula and the Commander Islands. 

Wildlife in Alaska Puts the Continental US to Shame
Seeing a finless dolphin might seem unusual, but Alaskans are used to these amazing animals. Wikipedia

A Finless Dolphin in Alaska 

Speaking of interesting sea creatures, we want to talk about the Northern right whale dolphin. These include just one of a handful of dolphin species that do not have a fin on top and have a smooth curving back instead. Their skin is mostly black with some white markings. They have a shorter beak than the most common dolphins and have a straight mouth line. They are not much information on how they reproduce since they are harder to spot, but it is estimated that they reach sexual maturity for males to be around ten years and females around nine years.

Northern right whale dolphins tend to be in larger groups of between 100 to 200 individuals, but they have seen groups of 300. They are mostly in the Pacific Ocean, so the best place to catch them in action is around the Monterey Bay all year long, around the Monterey Submarine Canyon. If you want to get a glimpse of them, the best time of the year to see them is around the summer and fall, and you can catch a whale-watching excursion boat where you might get lucky enough to see them riding alongside the boat.

Wildlife in Alaska Puts the Continental US to Shame
This animal is known for its extremely hairy feet. Besides Alaska, you can find it in other colder climates like Siberia. eBird

A Bird with Hairy Feet

And finally, let’s talk about this common bird who is not an Apex predator, but like all the animals on this list, it is an integral part of Alaska’s Wildlife. The Willow Ptarmigan, a small bird that is the state bird of Alaska, can be found in many places like Siberia, Scandinavia, and Canada. Their plumage color depends on the season. In the summer, they are mostly brown, but their feathers turn entirely white when winter comes. Although, sometimes, they get some black feathers in their tails. They haven’t changed much since the Pleistocene era in the tundra, where it was also very common to come by.

The most exciting thing about the ptarmigan is their feet. They are covered in tiny white feathers, no matter the season. Nevertheless, they have a purpose, and they are not only for decoration. They serve as a type of snowshoe that helps them walk around the tundra without making much noise. Basically, they keep them protected from the environment. Sometimes they like to hide in burrows in the winter, where, thanks to their white feathers, they are great for camouflage from predators and humans. They are always in flocks, so that you might find them in big groups wandering in the tundra. However, don’t get too close because they are afraid of humans, and they can fly away fast. Do you want to see more majestic animals? Check out animals from Madagascar!

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