Wildlife is everywhere - animals add the wild touch. Wildlife in Chena River State Recreation Area ranges from small animals like the squirrel, willow grouse and beaver, to large animals like bear and moose. Perhaps an eagle may be sighted soaring overhead. This is a premier place to find wildlife without roaming too far from Fairbanks.
Moose are the most popular wildlife to try to spot, and are numerous in this area in the summer after mid-June. They are often found near beaver ponds and sloughs where they feed on shrubs and aquatic plants. Moose are often seen near miles 28, 32.8 and 41.5 of Chena Hot Springs Road. These same pond areas are also great spots to see and hear beaver. Sometimes a beaver will see you and smack the water with its tail. This sound alerts other beavers that there is danger nearby.
Other large mammals that inhabit the area are wolves, grizzly bears and black bears. All are wary of people and tend to stay in the back country. Some black bears can be spotted along the river trying to pick up dead or dying salmon during the July and August spawning season. Wolves are more likely to be seen in winter, while you are enroute to a backcountry cabin, but are sometimes spotted darting across the road.
Smaller carnivores in the Chena River Recreation Area include lynx, red foxes (which include the red-, cross-, and silver-colored varieties) and coyotes. Otter, marten and mink are common, but not easily seen. Snowshoe hares, red squirrels, porcupines, voles, woodchucks and muskrats all call the recreation area home, but populations are cyclic. Predators such as lynx and owls are quite common when there are high populations of hares and voles.
As for the feathered population, there are several species which are common nesters in the area. Several kinds of warblers, chickadees, sparrows, and thrushes (including the familiar red-breasted robin) raise babies here on the abundant insect populations. Ravens are commonly seen cruising above the road looking for "animal patties."
Several species of diving and dabbling ducks also nest or feed in the area. You might see wooden boxes with an oval hole high up in trees. These were installed by student volunteers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks to provide additional nesting habitat for goldeneye ducks. The boxes are designed to imitate a hollow cavity in a tree, and are also used by other cavity-nesting birds and animals such as sparrow hawks, bufflehead ducks, flickers, red squirrels, and hornets. Raptors can also be seen patrolling the skies or sitting in a tree. There are several kinds of owls, eagles, hawks, falcons and harriers in the area.
Although there have been very few incidents of negative human/wildlife encounters involving injuries to people, the park rangers warn visitors to keep their distance, especially from moose and bears. Always remember to be cautious when encountering wildlife and never feed any of the animals or birds. Even the "sweet" red squirrel can become a destructive nuisance when accustomed to humans' food. Because there are so many moose in the area, always be alert when driving - one could jump out onto the road at any time.
Click here for Bear Safety information!
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