Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center  (1:30)

At the 200-acre Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, jaws drop in awe-even those of longtime Alaskans who've studied grizzlies and other animals up close. AWCC's mission is to preserve Alaska’s wildlife through conservation, research, education and quality animal care. The center, which opened to the public in 1993, also educates visitors about Alaska's wildlife. Coyotes peer out from behind the brush while a bald eagle swoops in on the salmon remains left by a grizzly bear. Wood Bison plod through 65 acres of tidal flat terrain, as part of a program that have restored the species to the Alaskan wilderness. Animals that cannot be released into the wild are given a permanent home at the center. Come be a part of these exciting programs and watch these animals display their natural, “wild”, behavior.

The Center's Setting

Animals that cannot be released into the wild are given a permanent home at the center

Animals that cannot be released into the wild are given a permanent home at the center

Set on the shores of Turnagain Arm, surrounded by mountains and hanging glaciers, the center is the perfect setting to learn about Alaskan wildlife. The animals are located in different areas grouped around several road loops. Perhaps the best way to view the facility is to first drive around to get your bearings, then park by the gift shop and walk. Each habitat area has a sign explaining the history and habits of the particular animals.

Stars of the Show

Hugo steals the show. She was found as a young grizzly bear by hunters near Kotzebue, in the northwest corner of the state. Orphaned and starving, she had almost 150 porcupine quills stuck in her paws and was unable to find food. The cub got a ride to Kotzebue on a snowmachine with the hunters, then a trip to Anchorage on an airplane. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, formerly known as Big Game Alaska, cared for Hugo after she was brought to their facility. She was placed on antibiotics and fed a high-fat diet.

Now Hugo has matured, and while she will never be released into the wild, she struts around her spacious 20-acre, fenced-in habitat like the queen she is. Viewers can see her pigeon-toed walk up close-she passes just feet from the fence. She might even climb up to the roof of a small cabin to snack on a piece of salmon she finds there. Seeing a bear eating salmon on the roof of a cabin is quite a sight.

Winter Wildlife

The center is open year-round with special discovery programs in winter

The center is open year-round with special discovery programs in winter

Come in the winter season (from October through April) for a different view of the wildlife, like the moose, wood bison, reindeer, wolves, deer, muskox and foxes (keep in mind, the black and brown bears keep a low profile this time of year, as they can be hibernating).

The 1.5 mile loop is your snowy playground! The weather and the roads at AWCC are perfect for kick-sled adventures, and the center has kick-sleds to fit all ages and sizes. Enjoy the great outdoors and have a blast with your family and friends as you kick-sled around the sanctuary and check out the animals. Other adventurous & unique ways to explore the Center while enjoying the wildlife include gliding on your cross country skis and riding your fat bike.

Or, sign up for one of the monthly Animal Enrichment workshops—where you can help create enrichment items (like toys) for our resident animals—and events like the Fat Bike ride in January and the Bison Run in April.

Guided Tours & Encounters

Year-Round

Walk on the Wild Side Tour (WOW) – 2PM Daily: Have a look at the inner – workings of the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center! Enjoy this 90-minute tour where your naturalist guide walks you through the Center, offering history and stories of resident wildlife – and you’ll get to feed an animal! This tour offers the best opportunity to get up-close and personal with Alaska’s wildlife! Maximum of 10 persons per tour, for ages 10 and up.

Seasonal

Moose Encounter – 10:30AM Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays, & Thursdays: Get in touch with your wild side and stand face to face with one of Alaska’s most iconic animals, the North American Moose. This amazing, one-of-a-kind experience allows you the opportunity to meet AWCC’s resident moose and learn all about their amazing adaptations for survival. For all ages. Maximum capacity of 35. June 1 - September 15, depending on weather and moose participation.

Bear Encounter - 3:45PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, & Fridays: Get an up-close and personal experience with AWCC’s resident brown bears this summer! Participate in their daily training and feeding all while learning about bear behavior and diet. As we do not feed the Brown Bears their regular diet in the public view, this is a very exclusive tour. 30 minutes. Ages 12 and older. Space is limited to 10 people. Disclosure: During this encounter there is no physical touching of the bears. June 1 - August 15.

Hours

Operating Hours, Open Rain or Shine:

  • August, September & October 2021: 10AM to 6PM, last entry at 5PM (Open 7 days per week)
  • November 2021: 10AM to 5PM, last entry at 4PM (4-day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
  • December 2021: 10AM to 4PM, last entry at 3PM (4-day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) Closed: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day
  • January 2022: 10AM to 4PM, last entry at 3PM (4-day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) Closed: New Year’s Day
  • February 2022: 10AM to 5PM, last entry at 4PM (4-day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
  • March & April 2022: 10AM to 6PM, last entry at 5PM (Open 7 days per week)
  • May, June, July, August 2022: 9AM to 7PM, last entry at 6PM (Open 7 days per week)
  • September & October 2022: 10AM to 6PM, last entry at 5PM (Open 7 days per week)
  • November 2022: 10AM to 5PM, last entry at 4PM (4-day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
  • December 2022: 10AM to 4PM, last entry at 3PM (4-day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
  • CLOSED: Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
  • OPEN: All other holidays.

Note: Hours are subject to change without notice due to unforeseen circumstances.

Free Daily Educational Programs. Click here for current offerings.

What to Bring

  • Good walking shoes.
  • Dress in layers.
  • Camera and binoculars.

Getting There

Mile 79 Seward Highway
Portage, AK 99587

By Car: Follow the highway south out of Anchorage, continuing 11 miles past the Girdwood turnoff. The center will be on the right, with a well-marked sign, just after a train station on the left. Location is 45 miles south of Anchorage on the New Seward Highway.

Driving Directions

Prices & Dates

Season Year Round
Rates Admission // $18 adult (18+), $14 youth (5 - 17), children 4 & under are free // $16 Active Military (with ID), $16 Seniors (Ages 65 and older), $16 Alaska Resident (with ID, Nov 1 - Apr 30 only)
Walk on the Wild Side Tours // $125 per person // 90 mins | 2pm daily year-round | Ages 10 and over | Reservations required
Moose Encounter // $15 per person | 10:30am Sat, Sun, Tue, Thur | Jun 1 - Sep 15 (weather dependent) | All ages
Bear Encounter // $125 per person | 3:45pm Mon, Wed, Fri | Jun 1 - Aug 15 | Ages 12+

Show Map

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center Guide

AWCC is a non-prof­it orga­ni­za­tion ded­i­cat­ed to pre­serv­ing Alaska’s wildlife through con­ser­va­tion, pub­lic edu­ca­tion, and qual­i­ty ani­mal care. 

Now it’s time to go over some basics. For­tu­nate­ly, we do have rules to abide by.. but hear me out!

Before we get start­ed, cari­bou and rein­deer are the same species. In Alas­ka we refer to domes­ti­cat­ed indi­vid­u­als in this group as rein­deer while a com­mon name used for their wild coun­ter­part is caribou.

An inter­est­ing fact about cari­bou: they out pop­u­late peo­ple in the state of Alas­ka 1.5 to 1.

Por­cu­pines are strict veg­e­tar­i­ans, some­times liv­ing off just a sin­gle tree for a win­ter. Giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty, they will like a vari­ety of fruits and vegetables. 

Moose are the largest mem­ber of the deer fam­i­ly, and the Alaskan Yukon Moose is the largest of the moose fam­i­ly. At birth, calves typ­i­cal­ly weigh approx­i­mate­ly 25 pounds.

Musk oxen are close­ly relat­ed to sheep and goats, and there­fore estab­lish dom­i­nance in much the same way.

In Alas­ka it’s not just bears you need to wor­ry about. Aside from the weath­er and real­i­ties of how unfor­giv­ing the cli­mate can be (did you bring rain gear?), we live among bears and oth­er large ani­mals like moose.

Black Bears are one of the more adapt­able ani­mals in the entire ani­mal king­dom, as they are cur­rent­ly found in every sin­gle Unit­ed States’ state, with the excep­tion of Hawaii.

Despite hav­ing a brown bear in the state of Alas­ka, we actu­al­ly have three sub-species; Griz­zly Brown Bears, Coastal Brown Bears, and the Kodi­ak Brown Bear.

The Wood Bison at the Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter are cur­rent­ly the only herd in the Unit­ed States 

Elk were orig­i­nal­ly brought up in the 1920’s as a herd­able & ranch­able ani­mal. Our re-intro­duc­to­ry efforts took place in the 1950’s, and were large­ly unsuc­cess­ful on the main land of Alaska.

The Alas­ka Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter is also home to a vari­ety of birds. 

The com­mon name for lynx in Alas­ka is Cana­di­an Lynx. Males are known as toms,” while females are ref­er­enced as mol­lies.”

Sit­ka black-tailed deer are a diminu­tive coastal sub­species of the mule deer that is com­mon through­out west­ern North America.

Wolves are the largest mem­ber of the canid fam­i­ly that live in Alas­ka. Adult males can weigh any­where from 85 to 120 pounds, some of the largest males reach­ing close to 150 pounds, while females aver­age 10 to 15 pounds lighter than their male counterparts.

Red fox­es are wide­spread and abun­dant in Alas­ka. There are no cur­rent pop­u­la­tion esti­mates, but red fox­es’ num­ber in the tens of thou­sands in the state. 

Coy­otes are anoth­er mem­ber of the canid fam­i­ly resid­ing at the AWCC. They are dubbed the most vocal of the canids and are some­times referred to as the song dog.” Coy­otes aver­age in size from 30 to 40 pounds, males typ­i­cal­ly weigh­ing more than females.

A squir­rel’s diet con­sists of seeds, conifer cones, nuts, fruits, and fun­gi. They occa­sion­al­ly feed on inver­te­brates and small ver­te­brates, such as insects, bird eggs and baby birds.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center