The Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Viewing Trail is a tool
to help you get the most out of your wildlife viewing adventure on the
Kenai. It’s a collection of 65 viewing sites located throughout the
Peninsula. These sites encompass all of the Kenai’s major wildlife
habitats, and range from roadside platforms to backcountry trails. As
you plan your visit, choose the sites that best match your interests,
time, and budget—and season during which you’re traveling.
Notable species are listed to give you an idea of what you may
see at a site; they are not all inclusive.
key to the site icons is located on the back cover flap.
Land ownership details,
with contact information, are found on pages 80-81.
In addition to site information, this guide contains
viewing and safety tips, information about habitats and wildlife on
the Kenai Peninsula, and a checklist of birds on the Kenai. You’ll
find more information by stopping at visitor centers along the way
and asking others what wildlife they’ve been seeing.
Binoculars make wildlife watching much more fun.
the stirring in the distant brush turns into a bull caribou with a
candelabra rack. The reddish blob on a salmonberry branch becomes an
iridescent rufous hummingbird.
binoculars for every member of your party, know how to use them, and
keep them handy at all times. When wildlife makes its appearance you
can be watching instead of fumbling or waiting your turn.
Federal Migratory Bird Hunting
and Conservation Stamps
are for wildlife
watchers too. Ninety-eight
cents of every dollar adds protected habitat to the National
Wildlife Refuge system.
The adjustable eyecups keep your eyes the right distance from the
lenses. If you wear glasses, keep them on when using your
binoculars. The eyecups should be folded or twisted down. If you
don’t wear glasses, keep the eyecups extended. Adjust the binoculars
at the hinge so the two circles you see merge into one when looking
through both lenses. For children and adults with smaller head
sizes, some binoculars may not adjust close enough. Try others.
The adjustable eyepiece (usually the right and marked – 0 + ) can be
set for differences between your eyes. The neutral position is 0.
For details on adjusting, ask an experienced wildlife watcher or
search for how to use binoculars online.
Focus with the central knob.
The "edge" zones between different habitats can be among the best
places to scan for wildlife. Edges contain elements of the neighboring
habitats, attracting wildlife typical of both sides. For example,
edges where forests transition to meadows, marshes or tundra can offer
chances to see forest wildlife that might otherwise be hidden among
the dark branches.
Respect the experience of other human users of these lands and waters.
Be aware of other wildlife watchers and avoid unnecessarily marring
their enjoyment of the animals. Respect the culture and privacy of
Alaska Native peoples and their land—recognize that fishing and
hunting camps you may come across are essential to local
residents’ subsistence way of life. Respect those lawfully hunting and
fishing within these multiple use lands.
A CLOSER LOOK
• Pre-focus for the general distance of the wildlife
you are looking at.
• Without binoculars, stare straight at your subject.
• While continuing to stare, raise the binoculars to your eyes.
• Your subject should be centered in the field of view; however, this
can take practice, especially with smaller and moving objects.
When shopping for
binoculars, you’ll see them described with a pair of numbers, such as
7x35 or 8x24. The first number is the magnification—the bigger the
number, the closer the subject will appear. Powers above 10 are
difficult to hold steady. The second number is the diameter of the
aperture lens. A bigger lens lets in more light, but is heavier.
Birders prefer binoculars with a ratio of at least 1:5, which allow
more light to see colors and details; however, compact binoculars are
handy for travel. You can get decent binoculars for under $200. Invest
more in good quality waterproof binoculars if you can afford them.
(small telescopes) provide higher magnification and greater
light-gathering properties than binoculars, expanding the effective
range of your viewing. Because scopes are affixed to tripods, once set
up and focused on an animal, a group can take turns looking. This is
great for younger children and reduces the frustrations of
finding animals. A basic scope and tripod setup can be purchased for
around $200. There are some fixed scopes and binoculars at sites along
the Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Viewing Trail for those who don’t have
their own; however, the wildlife isn’t always where the scopes are.
spot wildlife, think in terms of patterns. Observe carefully and make
yourself familiar with the patterns of water, rocks, or vegetation,
then be alert for subtle changes in those patterns that might indicate
wildlife. Scan landscapes slowly, watching for movement. Be alert for
shapes that are just a little "out of place" in the texture of the
environment. Horizontal lines, such as the line of a moose’s back,
often stand out among patterns of vertical light and shadow in
Colors can be clues too;
some animals, such as Dall sheep or black bears, are significantly
lighter or darker than their usual surroundings. Watch for patterns
on the water, too. Glass-calm water is ideal for spotting marine
mammals, birds and fish, but animal activity can be visible even in
choppy water. Ripples and splashes on the surface are signs of
wildlife movements. Note anything that disrupts the pattern and
texture of the water’s surface. Watch for dimples, rings, or swells
that indicate underwater movement. Keep an eye out for movement
across the surface as well, such as the skimming flight of a
murrelet. Let the animals themselves be your viewing guides. A
cluster of feeding gulls can indicate a school of baitfish, which
might also be attracting humpback whales. You might be led to notice
a prowling lynx or coyote by Steller’s jays nagging from spruce
branches above. Use senses other than sight. Every once in a while,
turn off the car engine or stop talking and listen for footsteps,
splashes, breaths, calls or songs. Sniff the breeze—our human sense
of smell is inferior to most animals’, but we can still detect the
musty scent of crow feathers or the barnyard odor of a porcupine’s
WHEN TO LOOK
evenings are often the best times to watch, as many animals conduct
most of their business in the hours at the edge of night.
Remember—during an Alaskan summer, dawn comes early, so to catch the
stirrings at first light, you might have to set your alarm for as
early as 2 a.m.
Spotting wildlife is just
the beginning of the adventure. Once you’ve located an animal,
settle in, observe it, and learn something about its life. Did that
swooping eagle come up from the water with a fish, or did it miss?
What kind of shrub is that moose munching on? Where is that yellow
warbler going with its beak full of insects? Familiarize yourself
with the tracks and signs you might find in the field. Not only do
signs such as these help you find and spot wildlife, they teach you
more about the animals’ lives. Check your library or a bookstore for
field guides to tracks. Participate in a tracking workshop and gain
field experience with experts.
Keeping records of what you
see can help make you a more careful observer and refresh your
memory weeks or years later. These can range from checklists (some
observers note how many as well as what species) to field notes with
sketches and details on behaviors, weather and habitat. A checklist
of the birds of the Kenai is found on page 114 of this guide.
TAKE NOTES AND KEEP LISTS
www.wildlifeviewing.alaska.gov for the statewide Wings Over
Alaska bird list and the Eyes on Wildlife checklists and learn how
to earn free certificates.
Learn what others have seen
and share your own birding observations with Alaska eBird. eBird
documents the presence or absence of species, as well as bird
abundance through checklist data. A birder simply enters when, where,
and how they went birding, then fills out the checklist. All of the
sites on the Kenai Peninsula Wildlife Viewing Trail are listed
as a "Birding Hotspots." Each site name is preceded by KPWVT. From
this site you’ll also find a link to All About Birds which provides
you with online resources for bird identification and an introduction
to birding. eBird spans North America so you can continue to record
your birding data throughout your travels and at home. And, you’ll be
helping to further our knowledge of birds by contributing to a massive
database of birding information.
The Alaska Zoo (off O’Malley Road in south Anchorage,
watch for the zoo sign on the Seward Highway) and the Alaska Wildlife
Conservation Center (Seward Highway milepost 79, near Portage) offer
wildlife viewers the chance to see some of the more elusive Kenai
wildlife and to take a closer look at bears, moose and other species
than is likely (or advisable) when viewing in the wild.
Both are open
For more information, hours, and admission fees:
tremendous privilege to observe wild animals in their natural
environment. In return for that privilege, it’s your responsibility to
be respectful of both wildlife and habitats.
plenty of space.
Binoculars and spotting scopes allow you to view wildlife without
getting too close. Approach animals slowly, quietly, and indirectly.
Always give them an avenue for retreat, and never chase an animal.
Learn to recognize signs of alarm.
These are sometimes
subtle, and they vary between species, but may include increased
movements such as agitated flapping or pacing, heightened muscle
tension, staring, or frequent vocalizations. If you sense that an
animal is disturbed by your presence, back off. If it still does not
resume its normal behaviors, leave it alone.
of nesting and denning areas, rookeries, and calving grounds.
intrusive visitors may cause parents to flee, leaving young vulnerable
to the elements or to predators. Stay on designated trails whenever
"orphaned" or sick animals alone.
Young animals that appear
alone usually have parents waiting nearby.
Restrain pets or leave them at home.
They may startle,
chase, or even kill wildlife.
Let animals eat their natural foods.
Sharing your sandwich
may get animals hooked on handouts; it may even harm their digestive
systems. Feeding bears, moose, and some other wildlife is illegal in
Alaska except under terms of a permit issued by the Alaska Department
of Fish and Game.
If you choose to
go off-trail, remember that you are a guest in the homes of the
animals you seek. Try to avoid disturbing sensitive habitats such as
wetlands, riparian zones, and fragile tundra.
Home | Table Of Contents
| Viewing Tips |
Wildlife Calendar |
Viewing Sites |
Who Owns The Land |
Habitats | Staying
Safe | Wildlife |
Bird Checklist |