Alaska Marmot trip

Hi all

I will be in Alaska 8/11-8/19. My plan is to focus on Alaska Marmot and see as many other mammals as I can along the way, with a boat trip out of Seward if possible. As far as I can see I have to hire transport in Fairbanks. There is one trip to the village at Anaktuvuk Pass, where the marmot has been found, and a trip driving the Dalton Highway, where the marmot has also been found.

I was wondering if anyone had any other ideas or strategies, and/or if anyone wanted to join me and give it a try. Doing both of those trips would take 5 days so there is some flexibility in my itinerary.

Thanks,

John Fox

7 Comments
  1. vladimir dinets 9 years ago

    We’ll be on Alaska on some of these days. Our plan is to drive from Anchorage to Deadhorse and back on July 30-August 6, and to Kenai Peninsula on August 6- 12. If you haven’t bought air tickets yet, you are welcome yo join us.
    Note that most rental companies in Fairbanks have a “no Dalton” clause in their rental agreements.

  2. Profile photo of John Fox
    John Fox 9 years ago

    On the off chance that anyone is thinking about this, I have booked an SUV out of Fairbanks 8/14-8/18. Driving the Dalton Highway is permitted, it has E-rated tires and a real spare, presumably they are worthy.

    Coldfoot is 6-8 hours north at MM 175 and has gas and a motel, and I figure is about the southern edge of Alaska Marmot range. Slope Mountain at ~MM 300 is about the beginning of the tundra and the marmot has been found there. I’m just going to check good habitat in between the two.

    But I’m not going to spend all four days at it and plan to drive the Steese Highway one day, and around Fairbanks, looking for other mammals; lifers for me would include Collared Pika, Caribou, Hoary Marmot, Snowshoe Hare, Northern Flying Squirrel, Porcupine, Wolverine, Lynx, a couple weasels and a bunch of voles and shrews if I can figure out what they are. There will be some other good mammals that I’ve seen before, as well.

    Alaska Fish and Game has a good page on wildlife around Fairbanks at:

    http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=fairbanks_guide.main

    There is a good Wiki page about the Dalton Highway at:

    http://wikitravel.org/en/Dalton_Highway#Prepare

    And the best thing I’ve ever read about bears and traveling in bear country is at:

    http://www.wildlife.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=bears.bearfax

    Do get in touch if you can pull off a last minute trip. It’s always good to have another pair of eyes.

    Cheers,

    John Fox
    Arlington, VA
    jjfoxfox AT/** comcast dot,don’tuknowit net

    PS If anyone has a good place for Collared Pika I’d love to hear about it.

    • Vladimir Dinets 9 years ago

      Where to see Brewer’s marmot on Dalton Highway.
      I’ll not use mile markers because one section of the highway is getting shortened, and mileages are about to change.
      1. A few miles S from Algutin Pass (the highest point of the Hwy where it crosses Brooks Range) there is a parking lot on the E side, called The Last Spruce (it’s about a mile N from the tree line). A 30-m trail leads through alder thicket to a nice camping space. From here, you can climb to marmot habitat by heading straight E into any of the alpine valleys. It takes about 1.5-2 hours. The habitat looks ideal for marmots, but we saw only one animal there.
      2. About half an hour’s drive N from Algutin Pass there is a huge isolated mountain on the E side of the highway, with a rocky face, plenty of Dall’s sheep and golden eagles nesting on top. If you climb the Y-shaped valley in the middle of the rocky face, you should see marmots by the time you pass the junction. Getting there takes less than an hour, and we saw at least 6 marmots.

      • John Fox 9 years ago

        Kick ass! Thanks a million, Vladimir. I hope you had a great trip.

        My first day in Alaska was mixed. I dipped on Belugas at Turnagain Arm (wrong tide) and at the city of Kenai (just not there) but picked up Caribou. In Seward tonight, which has a population of escaped pet rabbits, meh. Doing a 7 hour pelagic trip tomorrow then on to Fairbanks.

        John

  3. Vladimir Dinets 9 years ago

    Cool. We did the glaciers tour on the 10th, saw orcas, humpbacks, Dall’s porpoises. A short drive S from Seward got close-ups of sea otters and one harbor porpoise. There were mountain goats and black bears along the last 1/3 of Icefield Trail, and 3 spp. of shrews along the first 1/3.

  4. John Fox 9 years ago

    All

    I found the mountain with the Y valleys about 6:30 Sunday evening. As I got near the top of the slope I heard a loud whistling alarm call nearby, which was repeated at several other locations across the field. It was louder and different from anything I’ve heard from an Arctic GS and was probably the marmot. By 8:30 I figured they were done for the day and gave up.

    I went bsck the next day, of course, and was half way up the slope and glassed the field, and there it was, sitting on a rock. I moved up a little and looked again and it was gone. Four legs and a tail? Uh uh. Foraging, grooming, mating, playing the ukelele? Uh uh. So it was a far cry from the photo op I hoped for, but a pretty good NA scuirid. Another animal on my better view desired list.

    I hiked up to the saddle below the junction and hung around for an hour but never got on another. I did hear several calls that were the same clear, whistling voice as the day before but with a kind of down slur at the end, almost melodic. I’m always reluctant to call a vocalization I don’t know or have some info on but I’ve got to believe it was the marmot.

    Many thanks again to Vladimir for tracking this colony down. There is a lot of good habitat north of the pass.

    If anyone is ever up there I was just north of Trevor Creek. I parked on a little rise just north of mm 259 where my car was visible from both directions. With a little study you can find a line of rocky terrain up the slope and avoid much slogging through tundra and lateral corrections.

    Cheers,

    John

    • vladimir dinets 9 years ago

      Yep, that’s their call. Look for muskox 0.5 miles E from the road between miles 360 and 395, and for caribou on Deadhorse streets 🙂

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