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Photo by Gary Minish

Winter Wildlife

Valdez, Alaska is renowned for its amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. In the summertime, Valdez offers opportunities for visitors to see black and brown bears and spawning salmon close to town. However, after the salmon runs end and the bears go into hibernation, wildlife opportunities don't end. Many species of birds, mammals and other critters spend the winter keeping active in Valdez, and be easily seen right in town. If you're spending time in Valdez this winter, keep your eyes open for these animals:

#1: Bald Eagles

Bald eagles are famously found over much of Alaska in the summertime. However, in the winter, eagles in many areas of the state fly south. Yet in some regions, including Valdez, eagles congregate along coasts to spend the winter. Bald eagles congregate in Valdez in the winter in town or along Lowe River. The eagles may be seen looking for small-animals, including Valdez's notorious feral bunny rabbits

A bald eagle takes flight in Valdez, Alaska. Mountains in background.

Photo by Cody Allen

#2: Moose

Also seen in the winter is an occasional moose. While moose do not heavily populate the area, they are becoming more frequent and have been seen along the Lowe River, in the Robe Lake area and, rarely, even on the Valdez Duck Flats. 

two moose in a snowy forest

Photo by Cody Allen

#3: Magpies

Magpies are intelligent birds of stunning beauty. They are corvids, meaning they are close relatives to crows and ravens. However, magpies may be distinguished from crows by having patches of white feathers in addition to long iridescent greenish-blue feathers on their wings and tail. They are most often seen in spruce trees. 

a magpie sits in a mossy tree

Photo by Gary Minish

#4: Otters

Otters are beloved residents of Valdez any time of the year. Even in the winter, people who visit the Small Boat Harbor or walk along the boardwalk on North Harbor Drive in Valdez may get the chance to watch an otter playing or feeding in the harbor. 

a sea otter eating shellfish off of its belly

Photo by Gary Minish

#5: Steller's Jays

Like magpies, Steller's jays are also corvids (relatives to crows and ravens). These intelligent birds may be seen around downtown and residential areas throughout the winter. You may spot one on the ground, hoping through the snow to forage. 

a Stellar's Jay in snow

Photo by Gary Minish

#6: Coyotes

Coyotes (sometimes mistaken for wolves) may be seen around Valdez and out on the Richardson Highway year-round, though they may be more noticeable in the winter. 

A coyote stands outside in Valdez, Alaska

Photo by Cody Allen

#7: Ducks

While most of the waterfowl in Valdez, including Canada geese and Trumpeter swans, fly south for the winter, others stick around. Drive just out of town on the Richardson Highway and stop along at areas like the Valdez Duck Flats to spot winter waterfowl. You may spot some of the hardy duck species that overwinter in the area, including mallard ducks (pictured below), Goldeneye ducks and common mergansers. 

male and female mallards sheltering under an icy rock outcropping

Photo by Gary Minish

#8: Jellyfish

Valdez, Alaska is famous as America's northernmost ice-free port. This is lucky for beach-combers who can make discoveries on our shores even in winter. Walk along local beaches like Mineral Creek Beach at the end of Homestead Trail while the tide is low to look for Lion's Mane jellyfish (pictured below), moon jellyfish, crabs and other sea-critters that may have washed up with the tide. 

a lion's mane jellyfish in a tidal pool

Photo from Aurelia Charters

#9: Songbirds

Birders will be delighted to find many species of songbirds can still be seen (and heard!) in Valdez throughout the winter, including these grosbeaks. The male grosbeak (lower left corner) appears here in regal colors next to the female grosbeak (upper right corner), adorned in more drab plummage. 

a male and female grosbeak in a snow covered tree

Photo by Neil Hannan

#10: Mountain Goats

Also more easily seen in the winter, are the mountain goats which are pushed down the mountain in their search for food. Their long shaggy coats have a yellow tinge to them against the white snow of the mountain side and they do not seem to fear people while they are at the lower elevation. 

a mountain goat standing in a snowy landscape

Photo by Lori Campbell

Discover More

There are countless other wildlife species that can be seen in Valdez during the winter, spring, summer or fall. Visit our main wildlife page for more information or download the Valdez Wildlife Map from ADF&G. For assistance with your travel plans for the winter or anytime of the year, please contact the Valdez Visitors Center