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The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center is located just south of Anchorage. It was recommended to us by friends and we are interested having the opportunity to see animals like musk ox and wood bison that we are not going to see in the wild. (At least, not on this trip.)

I have really mixed feelings about zoos, but the animals here are either being rehabilitated for release into the wild or live here permanently because they are unable to live in the wild. At least they have a good home here.

There is a herd of elegant elk lounging in the lush grass.

The black tailed Sitka deer are mostly hidden in the shadows of their green grove. They look pretty much like deer everywhere – sweet and innocent, but you know they’d jump in front of your car in a heartbeat if you gave them half a chance.

There are moose too, which I’ve seen in the wild previously, but never up-close like this.

A large bull is shedding the velvet from his antlers. The shredded, bloody covering is, unexpectedly, stomach churning revolting.


The buffalo are hiding, but that’s ok because I find myself drawn to the musk ox and would rather spend my time watching them.

We collect Inuit art and have a number of musk ox sculptures, all of which give you a sense of the massiveness of these Arctic denizens. Having only seen them portrayed in art, I didn’t realize how small they are. Most closely related to sheep and goats (rather than the buffalo), they are bulky and dangerous-looking, but – standing only 3 to 4 feet at the shoulder – sort of miniature. It’s a bit startling.

I’m not fooled though. The look in the bull’s eye when a calf wanders near us is pure hostility.. . . no gentle doe-eyed looks from him. I give the fence a quick once-over – would it really hold up if that guy decided to charge?

Maybe it’s time to move on.

As the sky finally begins to release the rain it’s been harboring all day, we make one last stop to observe the caribou.

Most keep their distance, grazing lazily in the center of their enclosure. There are only a few spots from which to observe them and one of those is being held by a large male determined to gnaw on branches along the fence line. I keep my distance – while he is inside the fence, I’m not convinced that is enough to stop those antlers from doing a lot of damage if disturbed.

Now I wish I could observe all of them in the wild.

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