Wildlife_andScenery

The Assorted Wildlife and Alaskan Scenery page houses 25 images of Mergansers,
Shorebirds, a Willow Ptarmigan, a Porcupine, and an Arctic Ground Squirrel; plus 26
scenic images from Lake Clark National Park, Tuxedni Bay and Denali National Park.
This page also contains a few shots of Brown Bears, Murres and Puffins to aid context.

Click an image to open a larger version.
Use your back button to return to this page.

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Images in this section are in several different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Gallery Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Images can be found in the following Galleries (Direct Links):

Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear
Brown Bear Fishing       Golden Female and Cubs
Assorted Brown Bear       Brown Bear Composites 

Eagles         Puffins            Assorted Shorebirds

Avocets, Stilts and Yellowlegs         Rodents

Alaskan Scenic

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AirMadura_DeHavillandBeaver_X4221


Air Madura DeHavilland Beaver X4221

The only way into the area is by boat or plane, so we piled our gear and ourselves into this Air Madura DeHavilland Beaver DHC-2 STOL bush plane for the flight, which culminated in a hair-raising ‘short-field’ landing in a tiny lily pond.

SilverSalmonCreekLodge_HS2826


Silver Salmon Creek Lodge HS2826

Silver Salmon Creek Lodge was base of operations while we were visiting in the Lake Clark National Park area. It operates from a home, offering meals, guide services, computers, and rooms for 12 people.

SilverSalmonCreek_HS2874


Silver Salmon Creek HS2874

Silver Salmon Creek and part of the glaciated foothills around Iliamna volcano.

Silver Salmon Creek is in Lake Clark National Park, at the bottom of the Alaska Peninsula in
southwestern Alaska, on the west side of Cook Inlet between Chinitna Bay and Tuxedni Bay.
Located 100 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, it is accessible only by boat or float plane.

BrownBear_ApproachingFishermen_HS2297


Brown Bear Approaching Fishermen HS2297

A Coastal Brown Bear approaches a group of unsuspecting fishermen on Silver Salmon Creek.

The fishermen on Silver Salmon Creek tend to string caught salmon together and store them underwater
to keep them fresh while they continue fishing. Some of the local bears have learned this, and when they
get tired of chasing down spawning salmon, they steal some poor fisherman’s catch right off his line, or
more often they take the fish that a fisherman stored near the bank right off his stringer and eat them.

AlaskanCoastal_BrownBear_X2900


Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear X2900

An Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear wading down Silver Salmon Creek into the morning sun.

BrownBear_atSunrise_HS2278


Brown Bear at Sunrise HS2278

An Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear in the sedge grass meadow at sunrise.

SedgeGrass_SilverSalmonCreek_HS2807


Sedge Grass Silver Salmon Creek HS2807

Sedge grass alongside Silver Salmon Creek in the golden light at sunset.

Sedge grass grows in the coastal meadows and provides a major part of the diet
of a Brown Bear. They can eat up to 30 pounds of sedge grass a day while waiting
for the salmon to begin their spawning runs, and continue to augment their diet with
sedge grass during periods when there is a lull in the number of salmon in the creeks.

Fireweed_SilverSalmonCreek_HS2806


Fireweed Silver Salmon Creek HS2806

Fireweed growing at the border of the sedge grass meadow where it meets the Boreal forest
(the Boreal forest, or Taiga, is a coniferous forest composed primarily White and Black Spruce).

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium or Willow-herb) is a pioneer species which tends to colonize
open areas with little competition, such as forest clearings, meadow edges, and forest fire sites. In
Alaska, stems are used as a source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A, and fireweed is an ingredient
in candies, syrups, jellies and ice cream. The nectar is used to make Fireweed monofloral honey.

Alaskan_Midnight_HS2774


Alaskan Midnight HS2774

Midnight at Silver Salmon Creek, with a brown bear crossing a sedge grass meadow.

Southern Alaska is quite close to the Arctic Circle, where the sun remains in the sky in the summer months.
Dusk occurs late at night in the summer and twilight occurs at midnight, as the sun is only about 6-7 degrees
below the horizon in the summer, causing a phenomenon known as “White Nights” (no need for artificial light).

The light was still a little low for photography... this image was taken at 200mm, 1/80 second, wide open at f/2.

SlopeMountain_JohnsonRiver_X3072


Slope Mountain Johnson River X3072

Slope Mountain and the Johnson River in Lake Clark National Park, north of Silver Salmon Creek.

The Johnson River source is the Tuxedni Glacier. It is between Tuxedni Bay and Silver Salmon Creek.

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Images in this section are in several different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Gallery Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Images can be found in the following Galleries (Direct Links):

Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear
Brown Bear Fishing       Golden Female and Cubs
Assorted Brown Bear       Brown Bear Composites 

Eagles         Puffins            Assorted Shorebirds

Avocets, Stilts and Yellowlegs         Rodents

Alaskan Scenic

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Porcupine_HS2814M


Porcupine HS2814 M

Porcupine_HS2816M


Porcupine HS2816 M

While traveling by ATV to the Johnson River from Silver Salmon Creek, this Porcupine ran out of
the sedge grass and dove under one of the trailers behind the ATVs. The image above left was
taken while the porcupine was hiding under the trailer, trying to decide what to do next. After a
while it decided that the strange two legged creatures were not a threat, and wandered down
the path in the low-angle light at sunset, looking for a good spot to return to the sedge grass.

All of the landscape (horizontal) large version images linked from the thumbnails are 1500 pixels wide.
Portrait (vertical) images are 1200 pixels tall (1290 pixels with title bar). Images designated with an “M”
in the shot number are 5:4 aspect ratio, 1500 x 1290 with a title bar, or 1500 x 1200 without a title bar.

Porcupine_HS2818


Porcupine HS2818

A North American Porcupine enters the sedge grass near the Johnson River in Lake Clark National Park.

GreaterYellowlegs_X2943


Greater Yellowlegs X2943

GreaterYellowlegs_X2962


Greater Yellowlegs X2962

Greater Yellowlegs wading in the shallows and nesting in the rocks at Silver Salmon Creek.

GreaterYellowlegs_X2947


Greater Yellowlegs X2947

A Greater Yellowlegs wading in Silver Salmon Creek, near the far northern part of its breeding range.

The Greater Yellowlegs is a medium-sized shorebird with long, bright yellow-orange legs and a long,
slightly upturned bill which is dark with a paler base. They are more solitary than other shorebirds, but
they migrate in groups and walk with a distinctive, high-stepping gait. The feed by wading in shallow
water, using their long bill to dislodge small aquatic invertebrates and small fish, plus they also eat
small frogs, seeds and berries. They occasionally eat insects, and can snatch them out of the air.

GreaterYellowlegs_X2953c_M


Greater Yellowlegs X2953c M

A Greater Yellowlegs poses in Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

Due to their low population density and tendency to breed in inhospitable, mosquito-ridden muskeg
(acidic Boreal boglands), the Greater Yellowlegs is one of the least-studied shorebirds in North America.

Whimbrels_X2933_16x9


Whimbrels X2933 16x9

A pair of Whimbrels backlit by the waters of Cook Inlet at the mouth of Silver Salmon Creek.

Whimbrels_X2935


Whimbrels X2935

The Whimbrel (or Hudsonian Curlew) is one of the most widespread of the Curlews (a shorebird
with a long, slender down-curved bill) that breeds in the Arctic and migrates to South America, Africa,
southern Asia and Australia. They use their long, down-curved bill to probe in the sand for invertebrates
and small crabs, and they also eat berries as well as insects (including blue butterflies). The Whimbrel
is smaller than other Curlews. It has a shorter curved bill and a dark crown patch with a central stripe.

Whimbrels_X2940


Whimbrels X2940

The American form of Whimbrel used to be considered a separate species (the Hudsonian Curlew).
It has a brown back and rump, while Eurasian forms have white backs (and some have white rumps).

The North American Whimbrels breed in the tundra of Alaska and Canada and have only recently
become popular subjects of study. In their breeding grounds, they have an interesting habit of
picking up a berry with the tip of the bill, flipping it into the air, then catching and swallowing.

Whimbrels_X2941


Whimbrels X2941

Whimbrels_X2942


Whimbrels X2942

Whimbrels migrate along with other shorebirds and often fly at the head and act as a sentinel species.
They are very often the first to spot danger, and when they do they will alert the other birds in their group.

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Images in this section are in several different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Gallery Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Images can be found in the following Galleries (Direct Links):

Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear
Brown Bear Fishing       Golden Female and Cubs
Assorted Brown Bear       Brown Bear Composites 

Eagles         Puffins            Assorted Shorebirds

Avocets, Stilts and Yellowlegs         Rodents

Alaskan Scenic

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Mergansers_HS2316_16x9


Mergansers HS2316 16x9

A female and juvenile Common Mergansers swimming in line down Silver Salmon Creek.

Mergansers_X3249_16x9


Mergansers X3249 16x9

A female and four juvenile Common Mergansers in Silver Salmon Creek, Alaska.

The Common Merganser is a large fish-eating duck with a serrated edge on the bill that helps them
to grip the slippery bodies of the fish. These bills are the source of the common name “sawbill ducks”.
In addition to fish, Mergansers will eat molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae and amphibians.

Mergansers_X3250


Mergansers X3250

Merganser females and males in eclipse (non-breeding) plumage are mostly gray with a reddish-brown
head, a white chin at the base of the lower bill, and white secondary feathers. Juveniles resemble females
and eclipse males but have a white stripe from the eye to the base of the bill. Breeding plumage males have
a white body, a black head with an iridescent green gloss, a gray rump and tail, and black and white wings.

Mergansers_X3251_16x9


Mergansers X3251 16x9

Merganser juveniles in Silver Salmon Creek. Note the white stripe under the eye (the mark of the juvenile).

Merganser_Display_X3252


Merganser Display X3252

Merganser_Display_X3253


Merganser Display X3253

Juvenile Common Mergansers practice the display technique for
their mother in Silver Salmon Creek just before sunset in August.

Mergansers_X3253c


Mergansers X3253c

A detail crop from image 3253 showing the female Common Merganser in
comparison to the juveniles (note the lack of a white stripe below the eye).

Merganser_Display_X3254


Merganser Display X3254

Merganser_Display_X3255


Merganser Display X3255

The juvenile Mergansers practice their display technique while their mother shakes her head.

Mergansers_X3259_16x9


Mergansers X3259 16x9

A female Common Merganser (left) herds her juvenile offspring down Silver Salmon Creek at sunset.

Mergansers_X3261_16x9


Mergansers X3261 16x9

A female Common Merganser and juveniles at sunset in Silver Salmon Creek, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska.

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Images in this section are in several different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Gallery Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Images can be found in the following Galleries (Direct Links):

Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear
Brown Bear Fishing       Golden Female and Cubs
Assorted Brown Bear       Brown Bear Composites 

Eagles         Puffins            Assorted Shorebirds

Avocets, Stilts and Yellowlegs         Rodents

Alaskan Scenic

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DuckIsland_MountRedoubt_0963


Duck Island Mount Redoubt 0963

Duck Island in Tuxedni Bay, Cook Inlet, Alaska, with the conical shape of Mount Redoubt
in the background at left. Duck Island and its larger neighbor Chisik Island (far left) form the
Tuxedni Wilderness Wildlife Refuge, part of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge.

DuckIsland_MountRedoubt_0964


Duck Island Mount Redoubt 0964

Duck Island, with its sea stack at far right and Mount Redoubt peeking over the clouds at far left,
and Chisik Island (just out of frame at left) were established as a refuge for seabirds, bald eagles
and peregrine falcons in 1909. They were declared the Tuxedni Wilderness area in 1970 and in
1980 the islands became a subunit of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the
refuge is on Chisik Island (Duck Island is a six acre rock, Chisik is nearly 1000 times larger).

Duck Island is sometimes known as Puffin Island due to the colony of Horned Puffins that live on the small rocky islet along with some Tufted Puffins, Common Murres (Guillemots) and other seabirds, although Horned Puffins make up most of the seabird population of the island.

Duck Island is home to approximately 5000 seabirds, which include about 3000 Horned Puffins which nest in the talus and rock crevices. The sea stack (shown in detail at right) is home to Kittiwakes and Common Murres, and Murres also nest in tightly packed groups under some of the alder and elderberry trees on the island. The island is also home to small groups of Cormorants, Parakeet Auklets and Glaucous-winged Gulls.

DuckIsland_SeaStack_0931


Duck Island Sea Stack 0931

DuckIsland_SeaStack_0929M


Duck Island Sea Stack 0929 M

Sea stacks are steep (often vertical) columns of rock on a coast, formed by wind and water erosion.

In the two images above you can see the large Sea Stack on Duck Island which provides a home to
some of the seabirds, notably the Kittiwakes and some of the Common Murres. The detail image at
right is a 1000 x 1600 image showing detail of crevices that the Common Murres use for nesting.

CommonMurres_HS2390M


Common Murres HS2390 M

Common Murres (Guillemots) nesting high on the Sea Stack at Duck Island.

The Common Murre, also known as the Thin-Billed Murre, is a large auk that spends most of its time
at sea, pursuit-diving for fish. They typically dive to depths of 100-200 feet (and as much as 500 feet).
They swim after the prey using their wings for propulsion, and can remain underwater for two minutes.

All of the landscape (horizontal) large version images linked from the thumbnails are 1500 pixels wide.
Portrait (vertical) images are 1200 pixels tall (1290 pixels with title bar). Images designated with an “M”
in the shot number are 5:4 aspect ratio, 1500 x 1290 with a title bar, or 1500 x 1200 without the title bar.

HornedPuffin_Display_X3372


Horned Puffin Display X3372

A Horned Puffin displays atop a rocky outcropping on Duck Island in Tuxedni Bay, Cook Inlet, Alaska.

HornedPuffin_withFish_HS2680M


Horned Puffin with Fish HS2680 M

A Horned Puffin returns to Duck Island with a fish mustache. Puffins can carry 20 or more fish in their bill.

The warm, less saline waters around Duck Island only support low densities of fish, so the birds forage
 farther from the island to get adequate numbers of fish. Horned Puffins nest in rocky crevices on cliffs.

DuckIsland_MountRedoubt_0997


Duck Island Mount Redoubt 0997

Duck Island with the conical shape of the Mount Redoubt volcano looming over it.

Mount Redoubt is an active stratovolcano (composite volcano built up of many layers)
in the Chigmit Mountains just west of Cook Inlet between Tuxedni Bay and Redoubt Bay.
It has erupted five times since 1900 (2009 was the last eruption). The 1989 eruption blasted
volcanic ash to 45,000 feet, catching a KLM 747 in flight, which safely landed at Anchorage.
The volcanic ash turned to glass inside the engines, causing all four engines to shut down.
This 1989 eruption was the first to be successfully predicted by the Chouet methodology.

DuckIsland_MountRedoubt_1003


Duck Island Mount Redoubt 1003

Redoubt Volcano rises above Duck Island (Puffin Island) and Chisik Island (left),
which compose the Tuxedni Wilderness Refuge in Tuxedni Bay, Cook Inlet, Alaska.

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Images in this section are in several different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Gallery Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Images can be found in the following Galleries (Direct Links):

Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear
Brown Bear Fishing       Golden Female and Cubs
Assorted Brown Bear       Brown Bear Composites 

Eagles         Puffins            Assorted Shorebirds

Avocets, Stilts and Yellowlegs         Rodents

Alaskan Scenic

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Alaska_DenaliStar_X4239


Alaska Denali Star X4239

Logo and truck of an Alaska Railroad Denali Star passenger car.

The Denali Star is is a passenger train that operates between May and September
between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Alaska Railroad’s flagship train, the Denali Star is
a popular method of travel for tourists traveling to Mt. McKinley and Denali National Park.

DenaliStar_X4232


Denali Star X4232

A passenger car on the Denali Star reflects the forest south of Talkeetna on the first leg of the trip to Denali National Park.

DenaliStar_X4365


Denali Star X4365

The Denali Star contains both standard passenger cars and luxury double-deck dome cars with outdoor viewing decks.

DenaliStar_andFireweed_X4357


Denali Star and Fireweed X4357

The Denali Star passes a stand of Fireweed in the forest between Denali National Park and Talkeetna.

MountMcKinley_AlaskaRange_X4242_16x9


Mount McKinley Alaska Range X4242 16x9

A view of Mount Foraker, Mount Hunter and Mount McKinley and the forest beyond the
Susitna River, taken from the Denali Star between Talkeetna and Denali National Park.

The Alaska Range extends from Lake Clark in the southwest to the White River in Canada’s
Yukon Territory in the southeast. The highest mountain in North America (Denali or Mt. McKinley)
is in the Alaska Range. The Chigmit Mountains in Lake Clark National Park were once considered
the southwestern part of the Alaska Range, but are now considered a part of the Aleutian Range.

Mount Foraker (at left) is the second highest peak in the Alaska Range behind Mount McKinley.
Mt. Foraker was called Sultana (the woman) and Menlale (Denali’s wife) by the Tanana Indians.
Mount Hunter (center), the third highest peak in the Alaska Range, is eight miles south of Denali.
It is called Begguya (Denali’s child) in the Dena’ina language, and is a difficult and popular climb.

MountMcKinley_SusitnaRiver_X4245


Mount McKinley Susitna River X4245

Mount McKinley (Denali) and the forest across the Susitna River from the Denali Star train.

Mount McKinley, or Denali (Athabaskan for The High One) has a summit elevation of 20,237 feet.
The base to peak rise (18,000 feet) is the largest of any mountain entirely above sea level. Based
on topographic prominence, Denali is the world’s third largest peak after Everest and Aconcagua.
Denali was previously considered to be 20,320 feet high based upon a 1952 measurement, but it
was remeasured in 2012 using synthetic aperture radar, rendering numerous souvenirs obsolete.

MountMcKinley_X4247


Mount McKinley X4247

Mount McKinley vignetted by forest along the Susitna River, taken from the Denali Star train.

Denali, which rises from a sloping plain at 1000 to 3000 feet, has a base to peak height of 17,000
to 19,000 feet, making it the world’s highest mountain which is entirely above sea level as measured
from base to peak. Mount Everest rises from 13,500 feet on the south side and 17,000 feet from the
Tibetan Plateau, making its base to peak measurement 12,000 to 15,500 feet. Hawaii’s Mauna Kea
volcano is 33,500 feet above the ocean floor, lying mostly under water (13,800 feet above sea level).

WillowPtarmigan_X4281M


Willow Ptarmigan X4281 M

An Alaskan Willow Ptarmigan in Denali National Park.

Arctic_Ground_Squirrel_X4286M


Arctic Ground Squirrel X4286 M

An Arctic Ground Squirrel peeks above foliage in Denali NP.

The Willow Ptarmigan, the state bird of Alaska, is a medium to large ground-dwelling Grouse, and is the most
numerous of the three Ptarmigan species. Males in summer plumage have a reddish hue to the head, neck and
sides and a white belly (the bird above is male), females are similar in appearance but with a buff head and more
dark brown feathers in the neck, breast and sides, plus brown feathers sprinkled amongst the white in their belly.

The Arctic Ground Squirrel lives on the tundra and is one of few arctic animals that hibernate. In the summer
they forage for plants, seeds and fruit, storing the food for spring in their burrows, which are lined with lichens,
leaves and hair. During hibernation, the Arctic Ground Squirrel’s body temperature drops below freezing, the
brain temperature is just above freezing, and the heart rate drops to one per minute. Their body temperature
during hibernation is the lowest of any mammal, and while they sleep they shiver and shake for 12-15 hours
at intervals of two to three weeks to warm their bodies back up to 98 F. In the intervals, the temperature
drops back down below freezing. This behavior, rare among mammals, is currently a subject of study.

Fireweed_Denali_X4282


Fireweed Denali X4282

Fireweed_Denali_X4284


Fireweed Denali X4284

Fireweed on a rocky outcrop overlooking an alluvial plain in Denali National Park.

Fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium or Willow-herb) is a pioneer species which tends to colonize
open areas with little competition, such as forest clearings, meadow edges, and forest fire sites. In
Alaska, stems are used as a source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A, and fireweed is an ingredient
in candies, syrups, jellies and ice cream. The nectar is used to make Fireweed monofloral honey.

MountMcKinley_Denali_X4287


Mount McKinley Denali X4287

Mount McKinley (Denali) rising above the sloping plain in Denali National Park.

On the day I was in Denali, there were two major fires to the north near Fairbanks.
The prevailing winds carried the smoke to the south, reducing visibility considerably.
Processing these images for contrast and color was quite difficult due to the smoke.

MountMcKinley_Denali_X4304


Mount McKinley Denali X4304

Mount Foraker (far left), the twin peaks of Mount Hunter (center) and Mount McKinley rising
above the smoke from the Fairbanks fires, with the Denali Park Road snaking across the plain.

Mount McKinley has two summits. The South Summit (left) is the higher of the two (the North Summit
is about 800 feet lower, and is sometimes considered to be a separate peak). All of the local natives
have names for the mountain which translate as ‘The High One’ or ‘Big Mountain’. The official name
of the mountain in Alaska is the Koyukon Athabaskan name Denali (Deenaalee, ‘The High One’),
but all attempts by the State of Alaska to have the nationally recognized name changed have
been blocked by congressional delegates from Ohio, the home state of William McKinley.

MountMcKinley_Denali_X4310


Mount McKinley Denali X4310

Mount McKinley (Denali) rises above the smoke from the Fairbanks fires in Denali National Park.

Denali is high enough that it generates its own weather, and temperatures are characteristically as
low as -75 F. (-59 C.) with the windchill as low as -118 F. (-83 C.) as measured at the automated
weather station at 18,700 feet. Spirit thermometers at the 15,000 foot level have measured -100 F.
Visibility of Mount McKinley is quite variable, and it is generally obscured by clouds 80% of the year.

CaribouAntlers_X4316


Caribou Antlers X4316

Caribou antlers in Denali National Park. The Denali Caribou herd has a range that lies almost entirely
within the Park. The herd is the only barren-ground caribou herd in North America which is not hunted,
and is a popular subject of study for biologists. The herd population declined from about 20,000 in the
1920s-1930s to approximately 1000 in the 1970s, when harvesting was stopped due to the decline in
herd size. It increased about 10% per year from 1977-1990, when a particularly severe winter cut the
herd by 30% from 3,700 animals. There are currently about 1,760 Caribou in Denali National Park.

The Caribou (or Reindeer) are deer native to the Arctic and Subarctic regions. Very few reindeer
are able to fly. The rare flying individuals are used to to launch Santa Claus’s sleigh once a year.
In Lapland, the more common ground-based reindeer are used to pull pulk sleds (toboggans).

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Images in this section are in several different Galleries on the Photoshelter website.
The Banner below leads to the Gallery Collections page where a Gallery can be selected.

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Images can be found in the following Galleries (Direct Links):

Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear
Brown Bear Fishing       Golden Female and Cubs
Assorted Brown Bear       Brown Bear Composites 

Eagles         Puffins            Assorted Shorebirds

Avocets, Stilts and Yellowlegs         Rodents

Alaskan Scenic

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Puffins


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Puffins and Murres page.

Alaskan_CoastalBrownBear


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear section.

Alaskan_Eagles


Click the Display Composite above to visit the Alaskan Eagles page.

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