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One of the least visited areas of Alaska, the vast and remote Arctic National Wildlife Refuge offers great biodiversity and wildlife, coupled with dramatic scenery, making it Alaska’s most celebrated wilderness.

The ANWR encompasses six different ecozones: Arctic tundra, boreal forests, wild rivers, the Brooks Range Mountains, the coastal plain and stunning Alaska glaciers. In the summer time, it becomes a popular breeding ground for herds of porcupine caribou and waterbirds such as the snow geese, with tens of thousands feeding in the area on their way south. The Arctic coastal plain features rolling hills, small lakes, and north-flowing, braided rivers and is dominated by tundra vegetation consisting of low shrubs, sedges, and mosses.

The polar bear population from the Beaufort Sea is estimated at 2,000 to 2,500; they are best seen in late summer along the coast as they are waiting for the ice to form. One of the major threats to their habitat is the controversial project of oil drilling in a subsection of the coastal plain known as ‘1002 area’. As the polar bear is a migratory marine mammal and sources its food from the sea, it is vulnerable to any spills that may occur in his feeding ground.

Year-round residents of the boreal forest include Alaskan moose, Canadian lynx, martens, wolverines, black bears, grizzly bears and wolves. The ANWR is perhaps one of the only places where polar bears have potential confrontations with grizzly bears, as they both feed on whale carcasses along the coast.

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: polar bear, Arctic fox, snowy owl, peregrine falcon
  • Where: Alaska Far North, Alaska