Everyone expects to see wildlife when visiting Alaska and the 49th state in the Union rarely disappoints. My eyes are always searching for movement at the edge of the forest, high in the treetops, and even alongside the road but my desire is balanced with a healthy dose of caution. Some of the largest and most territorial mammals live in Alaska and it’s important, actually critical, to give them a wide berth. As much as I would love to see a brown bear, a grizzly, or a moose in the wild (I finally got to on this trip even though it was far away as we sped along the highway), it would be especially nice if it was from a safe distance but with an excellent view, thank you very much.
Enter the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, located about an hour south of Anchorage. The beauty of this nonprofit organization is that you can safely view wild animals without endangering yourself, your family, or the animals. Dedicated to “preserving Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, public education, and quality animal care,” the Center cares for displaced, injured and orphaned animals then returns them to the wild whenever possible.
For an affordable price (maximum $35 per carload), you can pull into this 170-acre facility and witness some of Alaska’s most impressive creatures in their appropriate surroundings. Visitors can drive or walk (or do a mix of both) the two-mile loop that meanders through the property.
You’re almost guaranteed to see porcupine, moose, elk, deer, musk oxen, wood bison, caribou, and black bears. The brown bear and coyote tend to be more elusive with lots of places to hide within their spacious of habitat.
Visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center near Girdwood, at Mile 79 of the Seward Highway, (907) 783-2025, directions here.