Welcome to the fourth in my Alaskan Adventures series! Previously, I have explored some of my newly found adventures whether the Mendenhall Glacier to hiking many of the hundreds of miles of trails just around Juneau to last week’s July Fourth parade and fireworks. This post I gear towards Alaskan wildlife. I have to say that just like those commercials that come across the television when there is a severe weather warning or watch in effect, the same goes for Alaska. The Wildlife Watch is in effect.
Over the past month, I have been privledged to witness some animals for my first time ever. Others I have witnessed in captivity from the audience of SeaWorld or outside of a cage at numerous zoos, but never in the wild. As I’ve said before, Alaska is an animal or nature lover’s paradise. It is really nature of all forms on steroids. Everything from the forest with floor to ceiling moss to trails full of animal surprises on foot and air. And, that’s not to mention what lies in the waters coming from the depths of the Pacific through the Gastineau Channel and onto other fertile waters to feed, spawn, and more.
From the picture, you can see that I have already spotted an Alaskan black bear. This I stumbled upon during my daily run to the Tongass National Forest. It was rustling in the grass as I was stretching. It is my suspicion that the young bear was probably hunting the waters off the Mendenhall Glacier for some of the first salmon spawning as it is is early in that season and yet too early for wild berries because of the very wet, cool summer. Never before had I seen a bear in the wild. With many stories from locals and repeat summer visitors or tourism workers, I know that I will probably have many more run-ins with both black and brown bears as when the spawning and berry season start to peak, it is known the bears come out in full force.
Although I do not have a picture as of yet. I have had many accounts with porcupines on the trails, both small, cute baby porcupines like a squirrel in a costume to a porcupine the size of a medium sized dog. Without much contact with porcupines before, I didn’t know if I should be afraid, cautious, both, or neither. I chose to be cautious. I figure why upset a wild animal with spines. Apparently, they are large rodents that have the spines for attacks by predators, but I wasn’t taking any chances.
Also, not documented in this post, but certainly worth mentioning are the abundance of bald eagles. As the salmon season is beginning, the streams are lined with both young, brown bald eagles not yet with the white head as well as their parents with wingspans upwards to eight feet. Having seen bald eagles both in the wild and in captivity, it is still equally amazing to see dozens if not more of these rare birds without trying. In my daily errands, bike rides, or walks, it is evident that Alaska is bald eagle territory. Additionally, I can understand the reasoning behind the selection of the majestic bald eagle as the U.S. National Bird.
In conclusion to my Wildlife Watch (up to this point), I wanted to take you to the water. Just a short drive or bike ride from Juneau’s downtown and Mendenhall Valley is Auke Bay, which is a great entry point to the many islands, fertile waters of Lynn Canal and Favorite Channel. It is here that I took a whale watching evening cruise with Allen Marine on a very typical, Southeast Alaskan evening with cloudy skies, winds, and light rain. Prepared with rain pants and raincoat, I was amazed how quickly and how many marine wildlife came out of the woodwork or better said the waterworks. Not only were salmon jumping out of the water, but dozens of Stellar sea lions were seen. Then all of a sudden a pod of killer whales was spotted. Just like a kid, giddy with my mouth wide open with amazement, there swam by not one or two, but fifteen killer whales. They were rather easy to follow with my eyes because of their prominent dorsal fin. They also were quite playful with one breaching out of the water for all of us to attempt to capture via film, but I was unsuccessful. As if seeing a pod of fifteen killer whales wasn’t already a story tell home about, but then the captain and crew spotted a blowhole of a humpback. It turned out to be a mother and a calf. A tad more difficult to follow because its dorsal fin is much smaller and less prominent as well as longer down times beneath the surface, I was pleased to not only see the mother and calf, but roughly about five in total. One flirtacious humpback gave the boat a full wave of its fluke. It was just spectacular. View the video of various whale spotings below or click here.
So in one month, I have seen countless bald eagles, ran into a black bear, cautiously avoided various porcupines, passed dozens of sea lions, saw a family of roughly five humpbacks, and an amazing pod of fifteen killer whales (orca). I can’t wait to be surprised by more of Alaska’s beauty and wildlife.
Here’s to more good times and good stories.