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Alexander Deedy

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After seeing the Aleutians while serving there as an Army officer during World War II, Robert Jones knew he wanted to return and protect the area’s rich wildlife. In 1949, Jones became the first manager of what is now the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge. A famously tenacious champion of wildlife rehabilitation efforts, he became known as “Sea Otter” Jones for his efforts to save sea otters and other species in the Aleutians. Jones spearheaded the effort to remove invasive foxes that were decimating wildlife in the Aleutians and is often credited for the recovery of the Aleutian cackling goose, a bird once thought extinct that was removed from the endangered species list in 2001.

Art by Tim Bower Why do moose have that weird goatee thing? The unofficial answer is… well… because… nature’s weird? The flap of skin that hangs underneath a moose’s chin is known as a dewlap, or bell. Scientists have theories about the purpose of the dewlap, including that it may be used for communication during the rut. Another theory is that it may act as a sign of social hierarchy; a larger dewlap could signal a more dominant male. Ultimately, there’s no conclusive evidence explaining exactly why moose have dewlaps. That means the official answer is, well, because nature’s weird. Nature is, in my opinion, pretty neat. What’s the neatest thing about nature in Alaska? During winter, wood frogs in Alaska will stop breathing, their hearts will stop beating for days to weeks, and two-thirds of their body will freeze before they thaw and return to life as usual in…

A Harlequin duck. Photo courtesy Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren, Wikimedia Commons Red-faced cormorant Nesting on cliffs or steep slopes above cold ocean water, this bird can be spotted along the Aleutian Islands and around the Kenai Peninsula. Alaska is the only place this cormorant lives in the United States. Willow ptarmigan The Alaska state bird masterfully camouflages itself by turning white in winter and mixed browns and reds in summer. Identify this largest of the state’s ptarmigan by its wide bill or feathered feet. Harlequin duck Named because the blue-gray feathers with striking black, white, and rufous markings look like medieval court jesters, or harlequins.

A bull moose rubs his antlers on weather instruments in Anchorage. Photo courtesy Dan Peterson, NOAA/NWS/WSFO Anchorage It’s uncommon to see wolverines in Anchorage, but one rogue wolverine ventured into the city where it could prey on chickens and chase stray cats. Biologist Dave Battle got a call one day that the wolverine had killed someone’s rabbits and stashed them under a low deck. Every time the homeowner approached the deck, the wolverine growled. To solve the dilemma, Battle first used a garden tool to pull the rabbits out from under the deck. Then, he and a fellow biologist turned on the hose and jetted water at the animal. The wolverine sprinted out from under the deck and never returned. “Not every day that you spray a wolverine out from under a deck with a garden hose,” Battle says. Battle, who has worked as the management biologist for the Anchorage…

Founders of a community supported fishery After Micah Hahn and Ben Tietge moved to Alaska in summer 2017, Tietge bought a boat and started commercial fishing in the Copper River Delta and Prince William Sound. 2019 was their second season operating the Copper Valley Fish Collective, which allows consumers to cut out the middle man and purchase their fish directly from Hahn and Tietge. Buyers can select at the beginning of the season how many pounds of salmon they want, essentially reserving a portion of the catch, which is then shipped at the end of the season. ~as told to and edited by Alexander Deedy Alaska: Can we start with a little background on yourselves? MH: I’ll start. We moved up to Alaska in the summer of 2017. Ben had been salmon fishing before then, but he decided he wanted to make it his profession. I have a background in…

Through July and August, fireweed seems so ubiquitous in Alaska it’s often said it should be our state flower. The plant is so prolific in Southcentral that just seeing a picture of fireweed in bloom during the depth of winter will bring me a flood of summer memories. The purple flowers start blooming from the base and work their way up to the plant’s tip, and every sourdough knows the story that when the bloom reaches the top, it’s only six weeks ‘til winter. That groundhog in Punxsutawney may have us covered with the forecast for spring, but without fireweed, we’d be lost in the autumn. Luckily for Alaskans, fireweed has become more than just a gauge spelling the end of our summer play and a dive into winter. Its ubiquity has spread to store shelves, where you can find it made into fireweed honey, jelly, syrup, tea, and even…

A sunset at 2 a.m. over Kotzebue Sound. Courtesy Land of the Midnight Sun I always get questions about sunlight when I tell people I’m from Alaska. I have my typical spiel about our vast state, and how it’s different depending on the latitude. In Southcentral we must squeeze the most out of a meager five hours of sunlight in the depths of winter. But come summer, it’s light all day. The sun still sinks behind the mountains, but there’s enough light to function. Occasionally, someone will ask me how I sleep, and I explain that I’m conditioned. As a kid my mom would open our shades sometime in April and wouldn’t let us close them until fall. Sleeping through the midnight sun just became a way of life. But there’s not much sleeping this time of year anyway. Every Alaskan who just suffered months of darkness knows that winter…