Alaska Wildlife

When you imagine going to Alaska, do you imagine an idyllic town encircled by the mighty ocean, nestled beneath the majesty of velvet green mountains and awe-inspiring glaciers. Do you imagine it with an endless supply of wonder and magic?

From the tiniest sea creatures that fill the tidal pools to the blow and splash of the mighty whales that glide through Kachemak Bay, Alaska's wildlife will astound you. Imagine the untapped wilderness...and you immerse yourself in the majesty of Alaska, you will thrill to the variety and grandeur of its wildlife. Plan to see sea creatures like crabs, sea urchins, and starfish, as well as eagles, moose, seals, and otters. They abundantly inhabit the water, land, and skies of Homer. Keep your eyes sharp for the splendor of animals you might see...bear, whales, porpoises, sandhill cranes, porcupines, and more.
placeholder

Porcupine

Size: 20-30 pounds

The porcupine is one of the largest rodents in Alaska, second only to the Beaver. Famously covered with quills, when the porcupine is relaxed, their hair and quills lie flat and point backward. However, when threatened, they draw up the skin of their back to expose quills facing in every direction. Contrary to popular belief, they can't actually "throw" their quills, but they are readily dislodged on impact.

Where will I see it?
There are lots of porcupines around Homer, and we see them regularly at Second Star Mansion and Bay Bluff Haven. Your chances of seeing one are pretty good, either crossing the road or hiding in the trees and bushes.

Is it dangerous?
Not particularly. They are probably much more afraid of you than you are of them. But still, keep your distance because nobody wants to pick sharp quills out of their skin!

placeholder

Alaska Hare

Size: 10 pounds

The Alaska hare, also known as a Tundra Hare, is one of the largest species of hares. The coolest thing about these creatures is that during the summer they have a dusky brown coat, grizzled with grey and silver on the top of their head. But, in the winter, their coats turn all white
except for black-tipped ears. They are most active at dawn and at dusk

Where will I see it?
Chances are very good that you will see Alaska Hares at both Second Star Mansion and Bay Bluff Haven, especially early in the summer. We watch them from the bedroom windows and they duck under the massive 3,000 deck at Second Star.

Is it dangerous?

Ummm...no.
placeholder

Moose

Size: 800-1600 pounds

One of the iconic land mammals in Alaska, moose will astound you with their size and beauty. While moose across North America are the largest member of the deer family, the Alaska-Yukon race is the largest of all moose.

Where will I see it?
You are likely to see moose just about anywhere and everywhere in Homer. Including both Second Star Mansion and Bay Bluff Haven. We have moose visitors frequently, including as we are writing this description! In just 2 days Homer in February of 2022, I saw 10 moose!

Is it dangerous?
Moose may not have fangs or claws, but they can still be incredibly dangerous if you get close to them. They are wild animals, and incredibly powerful. They don't tend to charge humans unless they or their babies are threatened.
lynx

Lynx

Size: 18-40 pounds

Lynx are similar to bobcats, as they are wild cats that are much smaller than common predators like bears. They look like a furrier version of a typical housecat and have large paws that work kind of like snowshoes—perfect for Alaska's climate.

Where will I see it?

You may have a chance to see a lynx if you are hiking in any of the nearby forests, and they sometimes cross the highway on the roads to Seward and Homer.

Is it dangerous?

A lynx is fairly shy. They don't like to bring attention to themselves, and will probably run from you.
baby bison

Wood Bison

Size: 1200-2000 pounds

Wood Bison are much more docile than plains bison, and they are one of the more massive beasts living in the Last Frontier, although not generally in the areas around Homer.

Where will I see it?
If you drive the incredible 200-mile road from Anchorage to Homer, you will go right past the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (mile 79 on the Seward Highway). You can see wood bison there, along with almost all the other animals on our list—plus musk ox, reindeer, elk, and fox!

Is it dangerous?
They can be, but unlike moose, it's less likely that you will be hurt by one. Just stay far away and don't try to agitate them.


placeholder

Grey Wolf or Timber Wolf

Size: 110-145 pounds

There are around 10,000 wolves that roam Alaska's 586,000 square miles. The people of Alaska value the wolf as representing a spirit of wildness, wilderness, and something quintessentially Alaskan.

Where will I see it?
While there are lots of wolves throughout Alaska, including on the Kenai Peninsula, chances are not good that you will see one in the wild. They avoid people. You can see them at the Conservation Center or the Anchorage Zoo. You are much more likely to see (or hear) a coyote.


Is it dangerous?
Anyone who knows the story of Red Riding Hood thinks that wolves are dangerous. You should be impressed by their sheer size and power. However, statistically speaking, their threat to people is negligible.

Alaska Bears

Bears are a huge draw for people who come to Alaska, and one of our most popular excursions is a bear adventure in their habitat. If you have ever dreamed of seeing a bear, your chances are beyond excellent on a Bear Excursion, and fair even in and around Homer. There are three types of bear that you will likely see.

* Black
* Brown (also called Grizzly)
* Kodiak

They are highly curious creatures, and occasionally they have wandered across our lawns and onto our decks at both Second Star Mansion and Bay Bluff Haven.

If seeing a bear tops your bucket list, or you simply want to learn more about them, visit our Bear Viewing article for more information!

Sea Otters

Size: 80-100 pounds

90% of the world's sea otters live in the waters of Alaska. Not only are these animals about the cutest in the marine world—always floating on their backs and often with their babies balanced on their
tummies—they are the softest.

Not that you should touch one in the wild (although you can at the Oceans & Islands Visitor's Center in Homer), but they have almost 1,000,000 hairs per square inch! Making them unimaginably soft and keeping
them warm in the cold coastal waters.

Where will I see it?
If you look at the water, boat in the water, kayak in the water, drive down the spit road, or in any way spend time in, around, or near the water, you will see sea otters. They are everywhere in Kachemak Bay.

Is it dangerous?
Otters rarely get out of the water, and if they do, they are not exactly what you would call "graceful" on land. You are more dangerous to them than they are to you, so do what you "otter" and respect their wild space.

Harbor Seals

Size: 180 pounds

Seals are beautiful and mystical air-breathing animals. In Scotland, they are called "Selkies" and folklore says that they can shed their sealskin and become beautiful women who beguile men.

They have big, beautiful eyes and most often you see them with just their head above the water, looking quite sneaky. While they are awkward on land, they are graceful and beautiful in the water, and are well adapted to the sea—able to dive up to 1650 feet and stay submerged for 20 minutes!

Where will I see it?
If you choose Second Star Mansion as your property, it is highly unlikely that you won't see seals. They sun themselves on the rocks right off our beach almost every day. Use the Big Eyes Telescope in the conservatory and count how many there are! But you can often see them up close in the harbor, where true to their name, they tend to hang about.

Is it dangerous?

These soft-looking sea-dwellers are not dangerous to humans but don't get too close to them or they may bite and they have quite a load bark.

Whales

Graceful and magnificent, whales inspire awe and wonder when seen in the wild, and are a strong draw for people coming to Alaska. And Alaska does not disappoint. In the summer of 2020, we went halibut fishing out by Silver Ridge. Throughout the trip and while we were fishing we saw some 40-50 humpback whales swimming, diving, and blowing all around us. At one point, one of them, maybe 100 feet off our port side, breached, throwing its massive 35-ton body entirely out of the water with an incredible splash. Truly awesome. Incredibly powerful. There are simply not words to describe the experience.

And we want you to have it.

There are 8 species of whales that frequent the icy waters of Alaska. Beluga, Humpback, Grey, Orca, Bowhead, Blue, Right, and Minke. Like all mammals, whales breathe air into their lungs, suckle their young, are warm-blooded, and have very little hair. They breathe through blowholes in the top of their hair, shooting water high into the air (which is a fabulous way to spot them from a boat).

We go into more depth (pun intended) into the types of whales you are likely to see in the waters of Kachemak Bay. And one of your Tier 2 Excursion options is a Wildlife Viewing tour—taking you out specifically to search for these magnificent creatures.

Humpback

The humpback whale is one of the largest baleen whales, and the only one that speaks. The males croon an eerie, complex song that can last up to 20 minutes and be repeated over and over again. They average almost 50 feet long and weigh about 35 tons—making them longer than most boats you will go out of the harbor on. They can eat up to 1.5 TONS of food per day, and mostly it's the tiny shrimp we call krill.

North Pacific humpbacks travel tremendous distances in order to take advantage of the best feeding spots and breeding grounds. They usually mate and give birth in Hawaii, and then head up to Alaska for the summer to feed.

And they are a common, if magnificent, sight in Kachemak Bay. You spot them by the hump coming out of the water as they swim, or the blow of water soaring high into the sky, but you can also see them tail-slipping, flipper-slapping, charging, diving (fluted tail fully out of the water) and breaching. Scientists have no idea whether they breach for a purpose, or simply for fun.

Consider an ocean wildlife viewing tour as one of your included excursions to maximize your chance to see these awe-inspiring creatures.

Orca

Also called Killer Whales, the Orca is actually the largest member of the dolphin family. They are not solitary creatures, but rather travel in "Pods" which are made up of between 10 and 50 family members. You will often see them surfacing together, huge bulls, mama orca with their calves riding on their backs, juveniles—a breath-taking experience that defines awe and wonder.

They are probably the ocean's most intelligent and savvy predator and haunt Alaskan bays and inlets all year long, hunting using sophisticated echolocation and in groups, often toying with their prey. (Which is mostly fish and other sea mammals.)

Orca whale average 25-30 feet in length and are recognizable by their black back, white eye patch and striking dorsal fin in the center of its back. The adult male orca can have a dorsal fin as high as 6 feet tall. They are the second-most widely distributed mammals on the planet—second only to humans. Seen throughout the waters of Alaska, they are not uncommon in Cook Inlet and Kachemak Bay. And if you choose a fishing or wildlife excursion on the sea, you have a good chance of seeing one (or many).

Birds in Alaska

Birdwatchers flock to Alaska because of its unique variety and huge populations of feathery fauna. Here you can find everything from Pine Grosbeak to Tufted Puffins, the American Bald Eagle, Loons, Ravens, Snowy Owls, Sand Hill Cranes, Swans, and of course Alaska's State Bird, the Willow Ptarmigan.  And there are hundreds more.

Chances are you won't have to leave your mansion to spy many of these avian all-stars. Bald Eagles regularly play in the wind off the bluff and soar past the windows of the properties. But if ornithology is your passion, book as one of your excursions a wildlife tour that will take you out into the coastal waters, where birds are plentiful, or consider booking your stay in May during the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival, or in the fall when the Sand Hill Cranes return on their way south.

Of course bring your binoculars and don't forget to look up.

We've provided a link that will take you through a checklist of the popular birds you'll find near Homer and the rest of Kachemak Bay.
eagle flying away

North American Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle is the national bird of the United States. These incredible birds have an average body length of over three feet and a wingspan of between 6 and 7.5 feet!

They are abundant throughout Homer, walking the beaches, sitting atop poles and buildings, diving in for prey, and playing in the wind along the spit and above the bluff at Second Star Mansion and Bay Bluff Haven.

At Second Star, one sits in the tree right outside the windows of the Spa Wing pretty much all the time.  We named him Hook. 
placeholder

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes are one of Alaska's largest birds, with a wingspan of 6 feet, and a height of up to 5 feet tall, with long legs and very long necks. They group together in very large numbers and fill the sky with an elegance that captures your attention. The mating dance of the sandhill crane is a most remarkable display. They begin with a deep bow, followed by great leaps, hops, skips, turns, and then more bows, a graceful and energetic dance that can go on for several minutes. It must work because they mate for life and stay together year-round.

They are social birds, sticking together in the tens of thousands. In early May and mid-September, thousands and thousands of these majestic birds visit Homer as they pass through the northern funnel, and you can see them everywhere.
placeholder

Puffin

A popular Alaskan seabird, often depicted in souvenirs and artwork, puffins are a beloved Alaskan treasure and beautifully colorful bird. Sometimes called "The Penguin of the North" or "Clown of the Sea," puffins are almost cartoon-like in their bright and perfect look: black and white feathers and a large, colorful beak. They are built for swimming underwater rather than flying, using their wings to propel them along and their webbed feet to maneuver. But they can flap their wings up to 400 times per minute and reach speeds of 55 miles an hour!

There are two species that call Alaska home: The Horned Puffin and the Tufted Puffin and they weigh about the same as a can of Coke. Raising children through summers in Kachemak Bay, we always enjoyed reciting this poem (read below) by Florence Page Jaques when we passed a brightly beautiful puffin floating in the water.

OUR FAMILY TRADITION

Puffin Poems

"Oh, there once was a Puffin
Just the shape of a muffin,
And he lived on an island
In the bright blue sea!

He ate little fishes,
That were most delicious,
And he had them for supper
And he had them for tea.

But this poor little Puffin,
He couldn't play nothin',
For he hadn't anybody
To play with at all.
So he sat on his island,
And he cried for awhile, and
He felt very lonely,
And he felt very small.

Then along came the fishes,
And they said, "If you wishes,
You can have us for playmates,
Instead of for tea!"

So they now play together,
In all sorts of weather,
And the Puffin eats pancakes,
Like you and like me."

-Florence Page Jaques, originally published in Highlights magazine 

Animals that You Won't See

Polar Bears

There are polar bears in Alaska, but you won't see them in Homer. Polar bears are white so they can blend in with the ice and snow of the North, and tend to stay on the northern border of Alaska, which is a far cry away from Second Star.

Penguins

Occasionally, some of our guests will ask where the penguins are. The answer? Across the planet in Antarctica. Penguins only live in the southern hemisphere, so you won't see any penguins in the great white north.

Elk

While you won't see elk in Alaska, you can see caribou, or reindeer (which are essentially the same thing).  In fact, everywhere you go in Homer you will find "reindeer sausage" on the menu, and many people find it delicious.

Walruses

Size: 1000-2000 pounds

These massive swimmers are renowned for their massive tusks and weird-shaped feet. If you want to find one in the wild, there isn't really a better time than a visit to Alaska.

Where will I see it?
For guests at Second Star, it is unlikely that you will see a walrus during your stay, since the blubbery beasts hang out in between Alaska and Russia in the Bering and the Chukchi Sea.

You may have a chance to see one if you go on a helicopter tour specifically to get a look at one, but they don't swim in Kachemak Bay.

GRIZZLY ADVENTURES

Alaska Bear Tours

BEASTS OF THE WATER

Whale Watching

WE'VE HARNESSED THE POWER OF ALASKAN NATURE

Natural Products