The Aquatic Mammals of Icy Strait
Whales and bears aren’t the only fascinating animal life to be seen in Alaska’s Inside Passage. The pristine waters of Icy Strait also provide a home for a number of aquatic mammals. The following are four types of marine mammals that you’ll surely see during your trip to Hoonah.
Commonly known as killer whales, orcas are found throughout Alaskan waters. It should be noted that killer whales are actually members of the dolphin family rather than true whales. They travel in pods of up to more than 40 animals each, and are so socially evolved that each pod has its own unique manner of communicating with one another.
These porpoises travel in groups of up to 20 animals and frequently swim right alongside of whale watching vessels and other oceangoing boats. Their black and white markings cause them to resemble much smaller killer whales. These extremely fast swimmers often generate ocean spray that can be seen from long distances.
Harbor seals can be seen on the sandbars, rocks, and shorelines of Icy Strait. Their round eyes and large heads make them easy to identify. Their playful, intelligent nature makes them fun to watch, but they can rival mother bears when it comes to protecting their pups, so bring a zoom lens for your camera and keep a healthy distance if you encounter them while strolling on the beach.
Members of the weasel family, sea otters are renowned for their agility and playfulness. These bright, highly social mammals are often seen tumbling in groups, grooming one another, and swimming and even sleeping on their backs. Their luxuriant fur was so prized by fur traders at one point in Alaska’s history that their numbers seriously declined, but populations in Southeast Alaska have since been restored.
Alaska’s Inside Passage holds many other natural treasures, including large bald eagle colonies, five separate salmon species, an abundance of mysterious and enchanting ravens, and some of the cleanest air and most vibrant sunsets on Earth, particularly in high summer when twilight lasts for several hours.