Everything You Need to Know About the Caribou Migration in Alaska

Alaska is home to fascinating wildlife that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in the United States. Throughout our diverse environment, you can find grizzly bears, polar bears, mountain goats, bison, and even caribou. Our caribou are some of the most interesting creatures in the area due to their natural beauty and behaviors. We highly recommend learning about the caribou migration in Alaska, which you can do right here!

Alaska’s caribou migration is just one of the many great things in our state. When you visit, you can see a wide range of wildlife, explore scenic mountains and glaciers, and even check out local museums and shops.

What You Should Know About Alaska’s Caribou Migration

What’s Unique About Caribou?

There are numerous reasons why researchers and animal lovers are so interested in this species. The Porcupine Herd is one of the primary groups living in Alaska, with a total population reaching over 100,000. This herd’s unique name comes from the Porcupine River, where they typically birth their young, in the Arctic Wildlife RefugeCaribou are also unique in that both males and females actually grow (and shed!) antlers. However, females’ are much shorter and thinner. These remarkable creatures overcome an impressive number of obstacles throughout their lives and contribute massively to Alaska’s natural ecosystem.

What Makes Their Migration so Fascinating?

Caribou are incredible animals, not only for their physical appearance and characteristics, but for their natural behavior, as well. Throughout the year, they migrate to different locations to survive. Alaska caribou herd migration patterns vary, but for many, this can involve a travel distance of up to 400 miles each way! In spring, the Porcupine Herd moves north to the Refuge where the females birth their babies, also referred to as “calving”. This often occurs toward the end of spring and early summer when they are ready to move again. Within a mere hour of their birth, young calves are up and ready to travel with the herd.

After this phase, caribou typically form “post-calving aggregations”. They group up and move together to protect babies from predators like bears and wolves. Mosquitoes and warble flies are also noteworthy pests that can hinder the health of caribou and even lead to death. In the fall, the Porcupine caribou migration brings them south, away from the insects. During this journey, the animals eat a tremendous amount of plants to improve energy, regain blood lost to mosquitoes, and store fat for the winter when much of their food supply is covered by snow. They brave treacherous land, cross rivers, overcome swarms of insects, and survive cold winters. It truly is incredible!

Where Can I See Them?

When you stay at Alaska Garden Gate in Palmer, you have the opportunity to see these majestic creatures for yourself. Some of the best areas nearby to spot them are by the Glenn Highway (to the west of the Matanuska Glacier) and the Richardson Highway towards Fairbanks. In Alaska, domesticated caribou are referred to as reindeer. You can even meet a few at Williams Reindeer Farm closeby!

Stay at Alaska Garden Gate for a Chance to See Caribou!

Our comfortable Palmer bed and breakfast is an excellent place to stay if you want to view the caribou migration. We have guest rooms, cottages, and apartments for every kind of traveler. You will even get a full complimentary breakfast each morning to start your days off right! We have five Guest Cottages available that sleep four people comfortably, offer stunning mountain views, and include a kitchen and cozy fireplace. There is no better way to experience Alaska. Check our availability and book your stay today!

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