STAYCATION: Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center: A Family Experience in Alaska | Stay
Every Alaskan has seen a moose or a bear – and probably several of the two – as part of the Alaskan experience.
But Dianna Whitney, executive director of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, says there’s a lot more to discover and enjoy in the park, located just off of mile marker 79 along the scenic Seward Highway.
“Besides the bear and the moose, we have a lot of Alaskan animals that are rare to see in the wild and some fun facts that you will learn,” Whitney said. “Everyone might know what a moose looks like, but they might not know what a dewlap is, or the rutting season or how the antlers grow. It’s fun for everyone, regardless of age.
Ranked as South Central Alaska’s # 1 tourist attraction, according to its website, the AWCC was founded in 1993 and is home to 16 species of wildlife nestled on 200 acres that allow its animals to live in large natural environments, including spacious enclosures modeled on their natural habitats.
AWCC offers a variety of programs and tours, including a daily series of 15-minute sessions, open to all ages, free with paid general admission.
At 11:30 am (and new for 2020) is the Kobuk schedule. Featuring a 4-year-old resident black bear named Kobuk, this event invites guests to participate in enrichment activities, meals, and learn more about Kobuk’s history.
At 12:30 p.m., it’s the Carnivore Chat featuring the fox and coyotes.
At 3:30 pm, the popular “Bear’s Business” discusses habitat and the differences between black, brown and polar bears, and includes a meal.
At 4:30 p.m., guests can learn more about wolves through the Wolf Program.
Additional tours are available for a cost that has both space and age requirements and includes the following:
Hand-feed Arnold the moose, willow, birch or fireweed as part of the Moose Encounter every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. for $ 10 per person.
At 2.30am daily, you can take a walk on the wild side, a 1.5 hour tour, to learn about AWCC history and feed a deer, porcupine or moose.
If you want to learn more about bears, you can attend the Bear Encounter every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5 p.m. The cost is $ 85 per person for ages 12 and over. Guests will feed the brown bears over the fence, watch them train, and learn about their specific stories.
“This year we are requiring face masks for all of our education programs,” Whitney said. “And for our free daily programs, we ask everyone to wear face masks or make sure they stay six feet away from others and just pay attention. We just want everyone to feel comfortable.
AWCC’s mission is to provide a sanctuary dedicated to the preservation of Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, education, research, and quality animal care. The sanctuary provides permanent homes for orphaned and / or injured animals who are brought into their care by the AK Department of Fish and Game or the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Whitney says that although the AWCC receives daily calls from concerned citizens, they are not allowed to pick up animals directly. To report an injured or orphaned animal, call the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at (907) 267-2257. Fish and Game will then determine which animals will come to AWCC.
“Sometimes the animals are not orphans at all and Mom puts them somewhere and will come back,” Whitney said. “Please don’t touch the wildlife, don’t bring the wildlife home, just leave it there. If you are really worried about it you can note the location and call ADF & G then they will go and check.
While the Wildlife Center is not reintroducing the animals to the wild, in 2015 they partnered with ADF & G to reintroduce 130 wood bison to western Alaska. Once thought to be extinct, they were discovered in a remote valley in Canada. These 13 bison continued to populate the now released herd and found their way to the AWCC after being confiscated after an individual attempted, illegally, to take them from Canada to Alaska, Whitney said.
AWCC gladly accepts donations of unseasoned and unburned fish and meat in the freezer, as well as willow, alder and birch trimmings. Customers can also donate to the care of a group of animals through their animal adoption program.
AWCC’s summer hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and guests can purchase tickets or daily memberships on-site or online. Visit www.alaskawildlife.org or call (907) 783-0058 for more information.