In the far north of Alaska is a place untouched by development. It is a remote land filled with life and movement.

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More than 400 species of plants grow on Alaska’s North Slope, supporting birds and other wildlife that arrive every spring.

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Polar bear skin is black to absorb heat, but their fur is clear and hollow. This helps them float while hunting in the icy arctic waters.

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The Porcupine Caribou Herd makes the longest migration of any land mammal on earth. They travel more than 1,500 miles each year.


This remote location may seem like it is a world away. But every American is directly connected to these wild lands through the wildlife that migrate to it each year. Every spring, over 200 species of birds travel to nest in the Arctic Refuge. They come from every state in the nation, and a total of six continents, to feast on the spring explosion of insects and plants. 

Alaska’s North Slope is also a year-round home to more than 400 species of plants and dozens of species of fish. The landscape of rivers, lakes, and coastal plains supports a unique web of life. Here, people, animals, insects, plants, and landscapes have evolved together over millions of years. Together, they create a one-of-a kind land filled with life.

“The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge contains some of the best polar bear denning habitat in the United States.”


One of the most recognizable species that calls the Arctic Refuge home is the polar bear. The coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge contains some of the best polar bear denning habitat in the United States. These dens provide warmth and protection for the mother bears as they give birth and nurse their cubs over the winter. When they emerge in the spring, mother polar bears often have lost almost two-thirds of their body weight. They put all of their energy into producing milk for their cubs, which can put on as much as 25 pounds by the time they leave the den in March.


  • Polar bears are one of the world’s largest carnivores. Adult males weigh about 1,500 pounds and can be almost 10 feet tall when standing on their hind legs. 
  • Polar bears’ favorite food is seal, and they eat an average of 4.4 pounds of seal fat every day.
  • Polar bears have a strong sense of smell. This trait helps them to sniff out hidden seals up to 20 miles away and through three feet of solid ice.
  • Polar bears are great swimmers. They have a relatively small head and partially webbed toes, which help them move easily through the water. 
  • Polar bears are perfectly adapted to cold temperatures. They have black skin to absorb as much heat as possible, and short ears and tails to help keep that heat in their bodies. 


The Porcupine Caribou Herd has likely been traveling to the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to give birth for the last two million years. There, the almost 200,000 caribou that make up the herd find safety and food for their calves in one of the harshest environments on the planet. The Porcupine Caribou Herd is deeply connected to the Arctic Refuge. They play a key role in the local food web and have deep spiritual and cultural importance to the Gwich’in people.


The Porcupine Caribou Herd makes the longest land migration of any animal on earth. They can travel over 2,700 miles in a single year. The herd makes this journey to find their favorite food source – lichen – and to escape the mosquitos that swarm caribou and their young inland. The windy coastal plain of the Arctic Refuge has few insects and predators, increasing the chance of survival for young caribou. 

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Indigenous Peoples
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Environmental Importance
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The Threat
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