Descriptive Legend of Terrestrial Animals

Coastal Western Hemlock-Sitka Spruce Forest

True Forest


The unbroken, dense, mature coniferous forest with its relatively unproductive understory would be a poor habitat for most wildlife were it not for numerous muskegs and other open areas, streams, rocky ridges, or other features which provide variations in the vegetation. These variations, aside from the broad extent of the type, make it perhaps the most important in southeast Alaska.

Sitka black-tailed deer depend on the dense timber with its relatively snow-free understory for cover in winter, feeding on the relatively sparse shrub species or venturing, under severe conditions, onto the beaches to feed on kelp and beach vegetation. Most deer on the mainland live in the southern portion of the region. The islands of the central portion of the archipelago support the largest deer populations. They are kept reasonably in balance with their habitat by wolf predation. Sizeable, but less stable, populations also occur on the islands to the north. Mountain goats may winter in the timber, sometimes even down to sea level. The mainland portion of the region supports some of the largest goat populations in North America. A small population of goats has also been established on Baranof Island.

Black bears predominantly inhabit the forest and are seldom found far from it. They occur throughout most of the region except on Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands. The blue or "glacier bear" color phase occurs mainly in the Yakutat area. Brown bears spend more time than black bears away from the timber in the alpine zone or on coastal marshes. They are found on the mainland and on Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof Islands.

Wolves, wolverines, lynx, and other animals range widely between habitats searching for food. Wolves are more common on the southern portion of the mainland and on the outer islands than in the northern portion of the region. Wolverines are not abundant but occur most often on the mainland. Lynx occur only in the northern portion of the region.

The little brown bat depends on the forest for shelter and feeds in forest openings, but it may also venture into more open habitats to feed on insects. Shrews, red squirrels, flying squirrels, deer mice, red-backed voles, porcupines, and pine marten are typically of the forest and are not often found away from it. Small rodents concern foresters because they are seed eaters and can potentially impact reseeded cutover lands. However, their role as insect predators and tillers of soil may provide benefits that outweigh the damage they cause (Harris 1968).


Most passerine birds in southeast Alaska are associated with coastal forests. Blue grouse, great horned owls, hairy and downy woodpeckers, Steller's jays, winter wrens, thrushes, kinglets, pine grosbeaks, and pine siskins are some of the primary birds that dwell within the forest. Robins, fox sparrows, hummingbirds, flycatchers, and swallows make more use of the forest edge.

More bald eagles may live in the forests of southeast Alaska than any other place in the world. Although bald eagles use a wide range of habitats in the region, they nest almost exclusively in tall trees within 200 yards (183 m) of salt water or along the courses of major rivers (Robards and King 1966). They are less common in sheltered bays, along unforested shorelines, or in fjords. No nests in southeast Alaska have been found in second growth forests because a big tree is required to support the huge nest of a bald eagle. Eagles usually build their nests in the upper third of older conifers, particularly Sitka spruce where they are supported by a whorl of large branches or scraggly tops. Large cottonwood trees that are common along the big mainland rivers may also be used. Eagles may return to a nesting site for many years and add more material each year. Some nests contain as much as 150 cubic feet of limbs, twigs, moss, and grass.

Admiralty Island supports an average of nearly two nests per mile (1.2 per km) along its 678 miles (1,100 km) of shoreline and is an important nesting area. Certain islands in Seymore Canal, between Admiralty Island proper and Glass Peninsula, have been designated by the U.S. Forest Service as eagle management areas. The Chilkat River valley near Haines north of Juneau is another favorite area of the eagle. Between 1,000 and 3,000 bald eagles have been tallied there as they feed on spawned-out salmon during the fall runs in the Chilkat River. This one congregation may exceed the total population of all bald eagles in their entire range across the southern United States. Other spectacular concentrations can be seen feeding on the spring smelt runs in the Stikine River near Wrangell and the rivers of Berners Bay near Juneau.


In addition to the numerous species of the many insect families that occupy coastal forests in the region, 12 are damaging or potentially damaging (Hand 1974). At the present time, only blackheaded budworm (Acteris variana) and the spruce beetle (Dendroctonus rufipennis) are thought to cause significant damage.

Important Animals of the Coastal Western Hemlock-Sitka Spruce Forest Community

True Forest



Masked shrew

Sorex cinereus

Dusky shrew

S. obscurus

Little brown bat

Myotis lucifugus

Red squirrel

Tamiasciurus hudsonicus

Northern flying squirrel

Glaucomys sabrinus

Deer mouse

Peromyscus maniculatus

Red-backed vole

Clethrionomys rutillus

Long-tailed vole

Microtus longicaudus


Erethizon dorsatum

Gray wolf

Canis lupus

Black bear

Ursus americanus

Brown bear

U. arctos

Pine marten

Martes americana


Mustela erminea


Gulo gulo


Lynx canadensis

Sitka black-tailed deer

Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis

Mountain goat

Oreamnos americanus





Accipiter gentilis

Sharp-shinned hawk

A. striatus

Bald eagle

Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Blue grouse

Dendragapus obscurus

Great horned owl

Bubo virginianus

Rufous hummingbird

Selasphorus rufus

Hairy woodpecker

Dendrocopos villosus

Downy woodpecker

D. pubescens

Western flycatcher

Empidonax difficilis

Stellar's jay

Cyanocitta stelleri

Common raven

Corvus corax

Chestnus-backed chickadee

Parus rufescens

Winter wren

Troglodytes troglodytes

Varied thrush

Ixoreus naevius

Hermit thrush

Catharus guttatus

Golden-crowned kinglet

Regulus satrapus

Ruby-crowned kinglet

R. calendulus

Townsend's warbler

Dendroica townsendi

Pine grosbeak

Pinicola enucleator

Pine siskin

Spinus pinus





Platyhelminthes (Phylum)


Nematode (Class)


Insecta (Class)

Spiders and mites

Arachnida (Class)

Snails and slugs

Pulmonata (Order)


Figure 129 Terrestrial Mammals, Southeast region (2.3MB) Oversize Document may take some time to load

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