Thursday, July 09, 2015

Get wild at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Girdwood

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is only a few miles from Girdwood Chapel UMC. When word came that bears, caribou and muskox are on display, our team made the immediate decision to go visit. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is a nonprofit organization dedicated to Alaskan wildlife, conservation and education. Some of the other species on display include the lynx, brown bears (grizzlies), black bear, the bald eagle and bison. The center has an active Wood Bison reintroduction program and are a sanctuary for animals (such as this bald eagle) who have been injured by humans, orphaned or abandoned.

Admission is $12.50 per person and they have special rates for active military, groups and seniors. Kids who are under age 12 are free. Youth age 12 - 18 get in for $9.00. That's pretty good when you consider the price of movie tickets these days. The Alaska Wildlife and Conservation Center collects fees at the entrance shack on the way in. You can leave the grounds and reenter on the same day. Although, I'm not sure why you'd want to leave.

Free tours leave from the visitor center at the top of the hour. Instead of walking around on our own, we took the tour. It only took a couple of minutes to board. The narration went a long way to helping us understand the impact of the 1964 earthquake, reintroduction program and the back story on some of the animals. I'm pretty sure that I might have missed the bear feeding if we hadn't done the tour, because of being engrossed in the reindeer pen or something else. It look less than an hour and I learned a lot.

The conservation center has both black bears and brown bears. I learned that black bears are smaller than brown ones and that brown bears are grizzlies. More new information told me that brown bears and grizzlies are essentially the same type of bear, but with different diets. Brown bears prefer veggies, a grizzly will eat both plants and animals. Apparently, almost all species of bears like salmon.

A number of dead trees mar the landscape of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. These are left from the 1964 earthquake that decimated the area. Land in this area dropped as much as 10 feet before being flooded with salt water. The immediate exposure to the salt water killed the trees, many of which still stand. It's an strange combination.

We stayed at the center a couple of hours but could have stayed longer. The gift shop can command 30-45 minutes. Hours vary by season so check before you go. The AWCC was open from 8:00 - 8:00 on the July day that we were there. I had a great time and look forward to coming back on my next trip to Alaska.
American Bald Eagle in Alaska postcard