Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve contains one of the largest concentrations of Dall sheep in North America. Other species of large mammals living here include mountain goats, caribou, moose, brown/grizzly bear, black bear and bison. Some of the smaller mammals are lynx, wolverine, river otter, marten, fox, wolves, marmots, beaver, porcupine, snowshoe hare, and other small furbearers, rodents, and even a species of bat!
The Copper River Basin and Yakutat Bay areas are along major migratory routes for numerous bird species. Wetland areas provide seasonal homes for nesting geese, trumpeter swans, ducks and other waterfowl. Golden and bald eagles, peregrine falcons and gyrfalcons, pine grosbeaks, black-capped chickadees and several woodpeckers nest within the park. Year-round residents include willow ptarmigan, spruce grouse, ravens, goshawks and great horned owls.
Park waters are spawning areas for three types of salmon (red, silver and king) along with rainbow trout, lake trout, grayling, steelhead, Dolly Varden and burbot.
The diversity the of park's landscape and the complex geologic and ecological history are reflected in the composition of the vegetation and flora of the park. Spanning Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve are four mountain systems, eight physiographic provinces, three climate zones and seven ecoregions.
There are numerous unusual plant communities in the park associated with unique landforms and lithologies such as sand dunes, mud volcanoes, volcanic ash, limestone and south facing bluffs. A recent inventory of the park's flora indicates that there are 936 vascular plant species. The sedge family has the highest number of species (111) in the park, followed by the grass family (79), the sunflower family (86) and the mustard family (74). There are 13 tree species, 27 willow species and 43 introduced species in the park. The park also has 327 documented non-vascular plants including 31 species of liverwort, 131 species of lichen and 165 species of moss.
Forest types range from coastal Sitka spruce on the Malaspina Forelands to the black and white spruce taiga in the interior. Wetlands are common along the coast and in the interior. River corridors and upland areas support more productive forests of white spruce with paper birch and quaking aspen. Sub-alpine zones have a higher coverage of tundra shrubs such as blueberry, dwarf birch and shrub cinquefoil. Vegetation varies in alpine areas depending on whether the site is in a snowbed area, a poorly drained area or a dry site. The vegetation above tree line is composed mostly of dwarf heath shrubs, forbs, sedges, and grasses.
Did You Know?
In March, 1948, Northwest Flight #4422 slammed into 16,237’ Mt. Sanford, killing all 30 on board. The wreckage was immediately concealed by ice and snow, making recovery efforts impossible. It was 50 years later until wreckage parts surfaced on a glacier, miles from the crash site.