Indigenous Flora and Fauna of Alaska

In Alaska, there is an abundance of flora and fauna. And there are a handful of reasons for that; this region is a major migration point for many species to find ample supply of food source, negate predators or inhospitable conditions, give birth, and to raise their young. Some species visit for a short amount of time, others migrate to the region for multiple seasons, and some animals and plant life live in this area year round.

Native Animals

Many species of animals have evolved alongside the various ecosystems in Alaska. And some are specific to Alaska alone and cannot be found anywhere else. The animals and plants of this region often mirror the beauty that we see in the landscapes and along the coastal regions. The flora and fauna only amplify the magic that we experience within the grandeur of Alaska.

Glacier Bear

Ursus americanus emmonsii

The Tlinglit people referred to this bear as ‘the bear that disappears’ with the name ‘sik noon’. (Anamalia) The characteristics that identify this bear are the nuances in their appearance. They have a silver-blue to gray appearance to their fur.

The designation of this subspecies is specifically marked by the appearance of their hair alone currently. This could be due to them dwelling in caverns and caves near the base of mountains that meet-up with glaciers.  And navigating nearby forested areas for food source, they can be spotted from the air and sometimes you may see them traversing glacier ice near the lateral moraine areas.

Alaska Marmot

Marmota broweri

The Inupiat people called these ground rodents ‘siksrikpak’. This is the name for a common ground squirrel, of Alaska that is. There are three different species of marmot in Alaska. These rodents can typically be found in rocky meadow areas of alpine regions. And, you can often hear their high pitch whistling before you see them.

They are densely furred with color variations range from deep browns to charcoal tones with greys mixed in, these colors are their camouflage from predators. These woodchucks of Alaska love to bask in the the sun on rocks and gorge on nearby berries, twigs, lichen, roots, and flowering plants. They can weigh over 10 lbs. and reach over two ft. in height. When they are not out gathering and exploring, you can find them in their den dwellings.


Lynx Canadensis

In Alaska lynx are found across most of the forested areas. They do prefer to be in areas where naturally occurring disturbances happen, this offers them a better food source and habitat for them. Lynx rely on small prey for their diet so a well balanced eco-system is essential for them to thrive. Typically where ever you see snowshoe hare you can expect there to be lynx, so predominantly the northern forested regions.

This cat is similar to a bob cat as it is short-haired and considered a ‘large cat’. Lynx are characterized by the tufts of hair on their ears, long legs, furry feet, and black tipped tail (ADFG). The markings on their fur can vary between gradients of browns to swatches of grays and blacks. They typically weigh about 40 lbs (18.2 kg) with males typically being larger than females.

Native Plants

Many native plants in Alaska are considered medicinal and have been used in relation with indigenous people people for thousands of years. Much of this knowledge that we have today comes from the hard work and relations between these people and their environments.


Chamerion angustifolium

From the coastal regions, to way up in the alpine elevations, you can encounter fireweed. The name of this plant is quite fitting as it typically is the first species to reemerge and start to balance the soil after a forest fire. You can find them growing in other areas with disturbed soil like open fields, alongside running water sources, and on the edge of forested areas.

This plant is quite resilient and hardy as well as having a brilliant bloom season that can fill whole fields and offer another layer of beauty to the landscape. As they grow through the season they typically range in height from 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 meters) or if given the right space, some can reach 9 feet tall (3 meters). The bloom colors can be anywhere from a light pink to a dark fuchsia. These spear shaped blooms have long narrow leaves. The saying in Alaska is that once the fireweed have bloomed and their tufted and silky seed pods appear, the summer is over.

Red Huckleberry

Vaccinium parvifolium

Huckleberry can typically be found growing in areas of elevation and alongside forested areas. This plant is a small shrub, which grows to be about 3 ft. in height (1 meter) and can be characterized by their angled branches and small round leaves. The leaf shape is similar to that of it’s relative, the wild blueberry. This plant is related to both the blueberry and cranberry.

The difference between this berry and it’s relatives is the smaller branching and smaller leaf shapes. This shrub blooms with clusters of white bell shaped flowers that produce a very fragrant floral smell. Mid-summer to early fall these plants produce some of the smallest and sweetest berries that can be bright red to a dark purple depending on how ripe they are.

Northern Yarrow

Achilliea Borealis

This plant is considered an herb and quite hearty. Northern yarrow can grow up to approximately 3 feet tall (1 meter). This flora is characterized by their soft fern like leaves and display white cluster flowers during the summer bloom season. Sometimes the blooms have hues of pink and magenta. Yarrow can also be characterized by it’s floral yet herbal smell somewhat similar to chamomile.

You are likely to find northern yarrow along trails, at the edge of forests, in meadows, and most regions of Alaska. Yarrow helps to reduce erosion and improve soil health in addition to it’s medicinal qualities. Tribes native to the area used this plant in various applications for medical care. Yarrow is quite common and flowers predominantly from mid-summer to early fall.

Abundant Alaska

As we learn more about Alaska and the beauty that inhabits this space we have the chance to offer respect to the area, the animals, and all those who have stewarded this land. Much of our knowledge and connection to this area is from thousands of years of resiliency of native peoples, animals, and plants through many changes. Take the time to connect and experience the beauty this area has to offer. And, take notice of the importance of balance between these thriving eco-systems and the species that live within them.