10Best: Cool Animals in Alaska

  • Muskox

    The Muskox is a large, shaggy looking beast with curving horns  that appears to be from prehistoric times.  Males can weigh up to 900 pounds.  Muskox stand in a defensive circle around their young to protect from prey.  There is even a Muskox Farm near Palmer, Alaska that gives guided tours.

    Photo courtesy of Anna Sirotina/Hemera

  • Tufted Puffin

    The Tufted Puffin has a black body, bright red beak, white face, and tufts of hair that give it the appearance of an aging rocker.  Courting can involve strutting and skypointing, where both nuzzle, then throw their heads back. Co-parenting is the norm, with males and females taking turns nest-sitting.

    Photo courtesy of Peter Davis/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

  • Dall Sheep

    Dall Sheep, known for their large carved horns, are the northernmost sheep living in the U.S., and can be white or dark brown.   Horns can take up to 8 years to grow (the male's horns grow longer) and rings can determine their age.  They call the jagged mountains of Alaska home.

    Photo courtesy of Dan

  • Pacific Walrus

    The Pacific Walrus is one tough animal, spending two thirds of its life in the chilly water and the other third on frigid land.  Sporting a face only a mother could love, these big lovable creatures like to dive down sometimes 260 feet to feed at the bottom of the ocean.

    Photo courtesy of Jupiterimages

  • Harlequin Duck

    Borrowing its name from the colorfully dressed Harlequin character in Commedia dell' arte, the Harlequin Duck is beautiful and seems to be wearing a magnificent costume.  Living in cold water, their feathers are very dense to keep them warm.  This also makes them quite buoyant, apparent when they bob up after diving.

    Photo courtesy of Cecil Sanders

  • Snowshoe Hare

    The Snowshoe Hare is named for its oversized back feet and the tracks they leave.  Morphing its color to dark in the summer and white in the winter, the Snowshoe, also called the Varying Hare, is very shy, and spends most of the day secretly hiding.  The young are less cautious.

    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo Tim Rains

  • Caribou

    Caribou, also called reindeer, will sometimes travel up to 600 miles to get to their summer homes, their herds making the longest migratory treck of any mammal.  Males can grow up to 240 pounds and unusually, both sexes sport the large velvety antlers.  Their coat color depends on their species and environment.

    Photo courtesy of Ron Sanford/iStock

  • Arctic Fox

    The Arctic Fox has a beautiful white coat, which helps it to blend right into its snowy surroundings.  A very hardy animal, it can withstand arctic temps of -56 degrees Fahrenheit.  Arctic Foxes will eat anything they can find, and in scarce times, will scavenge the polar bear's leftover scraps.

    Photo courtesy of Sam Chadwick/iStock

  • Mountain Goat

    With its heavy alpine coat and beard, the Mountain Goat is ready to brave the wind and the cold.  Able to jump up to 12 feet in a single bound and scale the highest mountain with ease, the Mountain Goat (actually a goat-antelope) is like the super hero of animals.  

    Photo courtesy of mark byzewski

  • Baird's Beaked Whale

    The Baird's Beaked Whale, otherwise known as the bottlenose whale, is the largest of all 21 species of beaked whales.  It has an elongated body and a nose that resembles a dolphin, but they are much larger - 40 feet in length and weigh in at about 22,000 pounds.  Interestingly, they have flipper pockets.

    Photo courtesy of NOAA Photo Library