Wildlife Seen in Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound
Many species of marine mammals, birds, and land mammals inhabit the abundant waters and coastlines of Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound. Listed below are just a few of the species that can be viewed from our cruises. Visit our whale watching page for information on the whale species that can be found in the area.
These playful porpoises are often mistaken for Killer whales because of their similar markings. They are also one of the fastest marine mammals, second only to the killer whale. Often you’ll see them bow riding or circling at high speeds, breaking the water to breathe. Generally, these 4 to 6-foot mammals travel in pairs or large groups.
Steller Sea Lion
This rare, endangered species lives in large colonies, feeding largely on mollusks and fish. They grow to 6 to 8 feet and weigh 1,500 – 2,200 lbs. (males) and 600 – 800 lbs. (females). They are distinguished from their cousins, the California Sea Lion, by their light colored, reddish fur.
This wide-ranging seal can be found throughout most coastal waters in the northern latitudes. In Alaska, they are often seen resting on ice floes around active glaciers. They grow to a length of 4 to 5 feet and weigh 250 lbs.
The smallest of all marine mammals but the largest of the weasel family, the playful sea otter spends most of its life in the water, feeding on fish, squid, sea urchins, and crabs. They often float on their backs, using their stomachs as a table for their food. They are generally 29 to 39 inches long with light brown heads and flipper-like feet. Otters are the only marine mammal that doesn’t have blubber to keep them warm in the frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean. Instead, they have the densest fur of any mammal, which keeps them warm and buoyant.
Bald eagles can be found in all 50 states except Hawaii, but Alaska is home to more bald eagles than all other 49 states combined. With the abundance of salmon and small birds in Alaska, Alaskan bald eagles grow larger than their relatives in the lower 48. They live in trees and snags, feeding primarily on fish and waterfowl. Bald eagles get their distinctive white heads at about five years of age and they mate for life, returning to the same nests year after year.
These birds are named for the black horn-like markings over each eye. They are also distinguished by their red-tipped beaks. Puffins are a diving seabird and are able to dive up to 200 feet to search for food. They are not as efficient out of the water and must flap their wings up to 400 times per minute to stay in flight.
Tufted puffins are distinguished by the yellow tufts of feathers behind each eye and by their fully black bodies.
Thousands of kittiwakes nest at the end of Cape Resurrection and in Prince William Sound, building their nests on the sheer cliffs. This surface-feeding member of the gull family is common throughout Southcentral Alaska.
These deep-diving birds nest in large colonies on ocean cliffs. Their eggs are pear-shaped to prevent them from rolling off of narrow ledges. Murres average 14 to 16 inches tall and are known to dive up to 300 feet in search of food.
These seabirds use their long, red beaks to hammer holes in the shells of mussels and clams and pry limpets from rocks.
These eye-catching birds are large with long bodies, large wingspans, and long, slender necks. Three types of cormorants can be found on the area: the red-faced cormorant, double-crested cormorant, and pelagic cormorant.
In addition to the commonly seen bird species listed above, you may also see: rhinoceros aucklets, sooty shearwaters, parasitic and long-tailed jaegers, peregrine falcons, pigeon guillemots, marbled murrelet, surf scoters, eiders, harlequin ducks, goldeneyes, arctic tern, loons, and petrels.
Billies (males), nannies (females), and kids (babies) are often spotted scrambling along the steep coastline cliffs of Kenai Fjords National Park and Prince William Sound. They use their split booked to latch on to narrow cliffs, making then sure-foot climbers in steep alpine areas.
These large mammals can be seen along the coastline and weigh as much as 500 pounds. They feed on salmon, berries, and vegetation.