Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center  (1:37)

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). Come for one of the daily keeper chats (starting in November) to hear about the animals’ diets and social patterns, or take one of the Walk on the Wild Side Tours (starting in October, and set up by phone or email), a behind-the-scenes-style look at the AWCC where you can get up-close looks at a porcupine (safely!) and even help feed some of the animals. 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.

Hours

Operating Hours, Open Rain or Shine:

Guests have one hour to enjoy the center if they come at the advertised closing time.

  • January: 10 am to 3 pm (4 day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
  • February: 10 am to 4 pm
  • March & April: 12 pm to 5 pm
  • May 1 - October 31: 10 am to 5 pm
  • November: 10 am to 4 pm (4 day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
  • December: 10 am to 3 pm (4 day operations: Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday)
  • For Holiday Break we will be open 7 days a week from December 20 to December 31; we will be closed December 24, December 25 and January 1.
  • 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.

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 // $17 adult, $13 student (7 - 17), Children 6 & under are free // $15 Active Military (with ID), $15 Seniors (Ages 65 and older), $15 Alaska Resident (with ID)
Walk on the Wild Side Tours // $100 per person // 90 mins | Jun 1 - Sep 30, daily at 2pm. Winter, 2pm each day center is open | Ages 10 and over | Reservations required. Book online, call to reserve, or email [email protected]
Free Animal Programs: Jun 1 - Sep 15 // Kobuk Cirriculum at 11:30 am // Carnivore Chat at 12:30 pm // Bears Business at 3:30 pm // Wolf Wisdom at 4:30 pm

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. 

Cari­bou and rein­deer are in essence the exact same ani­mal. Rein­deer are sim­ply giv­en the term rein­deer” because of domes­ti­ca­tion, where­as cari­bou are their wild counterparts. 

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. 

In recent years we have been able to dis­cov­er a tremen­dous amount about moose with the help of teleme­try”, the process of radio track­ing ani­mals once they’ve been re-intro­duced to the wild.

A very pre­his­toric look­ing ani­mal, and to their cred­it, large­ly unevolved in the last 20,000 years.

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. 

Both lynx spent a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of time at the Anchor­age Zoo for extend­ed reha­bil­i­ta­tion, and they have been at the Alas­ka Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter since 2011.

The Wildlife Con­ser­va­tion Cen­ter is also home to a vari­ety of coy­otes and fox­es, how­ev­er these two species specif­i­cal­ly are can­di­dates for re-introduction.

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center