Southeast Alaska Wildlife
Salmon Run Fishing is located right off of the Icy Strait which boasts some of the best whale watching anyone could ask for! Seeing whales off of the front porch of the lodge is not uncommon at all! Humpback whales can grow to about 49 feet long and can weigh up to 58,000 lbs . . . talk about a “big fish”! These giant mammals spend 6-8 weeks in the fall migrating to Hawaii to mate and give birth to their calves that are born anywhere from 10 to 15 feet in length! They head back to Alaska in the spring and what a show they put on!
The orca, or killer whale, is the largest member of the dolphin family and live in pods with multiple family members. They are capable of navigating and hunting underwater in complete darkness using sound and echolocation. Killer whales in Alaska are either in resident or transient pods. Residents feed mostly on salmon and are more stable than transient pods. They often have pods of up to 50 animals! Transients feed on marine mammals, such as sea lions. They tend to be very quiet and usually vocalize only after making a kill. Transient orca live in pods of 5-7 animals.
There are an estimated 100,000 black bears in Alaska! They can vary in color, from jet black to white but black is the most common. They are the smallest of the North American bears with adults standing at about 29 inches to their shoulder. Black bears have decent sense of sight and hearing, but have an incredible sense of smell!
You’ll find brown bears in coastal areas of Alaska. They typically feast on fatty salmon, but they will also eat clams, sedge grass and berries. Their plentiful food supply allows them to grow larger and are generally less aggressive than grizzlies! Fun fact: a brown bear is also a grizzly but a grizzly is not a brown bear.
There are more bald eagles in Alaska than anywhere else in the United States! They are Alaska’s largest bird of prey with a wing span of up to 7.5 feet. They can live up to 30 years and can obtain speeds of 100 miles per hour! They prey mostly on salmon and can be seen in large congregations all around southeast Alaska. Juvenile bald eagle are often confused with golden eagles because of their mottled brown and white feathers with black beaks instead of yellow. They start getting the “bald” head around age 5!
The Alaska Moose is the largest North American subspecies of moose. They generally only come in contact with other moose during mating season in the fall where males can become very aggressive, especially when startled. Male moose can stand at almost 7 feet tall and weigh over 1,400 lbs! Females stand at around 6 feet tall and weigh close to 1,050 lbs. The largest Alaska Moose was shot in western Yukon in 1897 weighing 1,808 lbs. and was 7.6 feet tall!
Steller Sea Lions
Males sea lions live up to 20 years and females to 30 years. Single sea lions pups are born in June and will suckle anywhere from 1-3 years. They are able to dive to depths similar to that of their parents their first spring but rarely will. There is a large size difference in males and females! Their weight at birth is 51 pounds. Females grow quickly for the first 4 years but slow by the fifth year whereas males continue to grow until about 11 years old. The average weight of an adult male is 1,245 lbs.. An adult females can weigh up to 580 lbs.
Adult river otters grow to around 5-6 feet long and can weigh anywhere from 15-35 pounds. They are black-brown, with a lighter colored belly. Otter fur is very dense, with an undercoat that is overlaid with long guard hairs. River otters smell and hear fairly well but their vision is not very good. Instead they use strong whiskers that are used by the animal for hunting and avoiding obstructions. They are often found in families! A family is usually made up of a female and her pups, with or without an adult male. The mothers will occasionally drive other animals away from a small area around the den where her pups live.
Ninety percent of the world’s sea otters live in Alaska’s coastal waters! Both male and female sea otters grow up to 5 feet long but males usually weigh more at 80-100 lbs where females only weigh around 50-70 lbs. They eat sea urchins, crabs, clams, mussels, octopus, and fish. They have the densest fur of any other mammal, with 800,000 to one million hairs per square inch. Sea otters are known to wrap their pups and themselves in kelp to keep from drifting out to sea. When that pups are first born they are so buoyant that the mothers will leave them floating on the surface while they dive for food. They usually only dive to around 20 feet, but the deepest dive recorded is 264 feet!