Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is one of the last great wildernesses of North America, and is home turf to a stunning array of birds and mammals of land and sea. The refuge’s millions of acres cover sea coast, tundra cloaked in a layer of permafrost, mountains, northern meadows, and boreal forest. All arctic and subarctic ecosystems can be found in the refuge, and these fascinating habitats remain virtually untouched and undisturbed by human hand. This diversity of northern landscapes is populated by an even wider diversity of wildlife. Polar Bears, the world’s most carnivorous bears, stalk seals and the occasional Walrus along the coast of the Beaufort Sea. Great, woolly Muskoxen live farther inland, on the coastal plain. They gather in tight herds, feeding on the plants that spring up in the Arctic summer and on twigs in winter. Agile Dall’s Sheep, bearing huge, curving horns, live on the rocky slopes of the Brooks Range. In fall, rival males engage in spectacular head-butting contests for dominance. The sounds of their horns clashing can echo through the peaks. The Porcupine Herd of Caribou, numbering 129,000 individuals, arrives on the refuge’s coastal plain in late May, when the calves are born. In July the caribou begin the return journey to their wintering grounds in Canada and more southerly portions of the refuge.
These and dozens of other mammal species are joined by 180 different types of birds. Thousands upon thousands of adult and young Snow Geese gather on the coastal plain in late summer, after the breeding season, to fatten up on cottongrass before their long migration southward to their wintering grounds. Many birds found throughout the lower 48 states breed in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Kinglets, sparrows, woodpeckers, ducks, thrushes, hawks, swans, shorebirds, and many other birds that appear at parks, beaches, woodlands, and bird feeders throughout the continent depend on this refuge for successful breeding, nesting, and raising of young. Clearly, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a special, unique, and irreplaceable natural resource, even for those of us who live thousands of miles away.
Have you been to this park? How many stars would you give it?