Seasons of Wildlife

Migratory birds begin to arrive in April as the ice begins to break up and create open water once again. Brown bears begin to emerge from their dens. Late April to mid-May is the peak of herring spawning and the Togiak commercial herring fishing season and the trout spawning peaks around this time too and into June. 

In May, Steller sea lion numbers in Bristol Bay peak or are at near peak, as are gray whales numbers along Togiak Bay and the Cape Peirce area as they migrate north. This is also when northern pike spawning typically peaks. In mid-May to early June, the Nushagak Peninsula caribou are calving, as are moose. 

May to June is typically the peak of spawning for arctic grayling. In late May and into June, Chinook (king) salmon begin to enter the rivers. In June, the commercial salmon fishery begins. Subsistence set-netting for salmon also begins (and continues through August). In June, seal pups are born on haulouts along the refuge coastline and seabirds and raptors are nesting. 

Come July, walrus numbers in Bristol Bay and at the refuge are at or near peak. Dolly Varden and sockeye, pink and chum salmon are running up the rivers to spawn. Local residents pick berries as they ripen: salmonberries, blueberries, huckleberries, and cranberries in July and August. In August, spawning peaks for chinook salmon early in the month and by mid-month for chum salmon. Coho salmon return to spawn in August while seal numbers peak and seal molt begins. Late August is the spawning peak for pink salmon. Late August to early September is when moose and caribou bulls shed velvet from their antlers as lake trout and sockeye salmon spawning is peaking. 

In September, local residents hunt waterfowl. September to October spawning peaks for Dolly Varden, Arctic char and coho salmon. Late September to early-October is the peak for moose and caribou rut.

In October, area waters begin to freeze and ice over. By late October brown bears may begin entering their winter dens.

Winter is upon the Refuge from November to March. Throughout November adult bull caribou are casting or dropping their antlers. Late November through January bull moose are casting antlers. Local residents might be found seining/netting for smelt. The subsistence harvest of fur bearing animals begins for fox, hare, beaver and martin. Ptarmigan and grouse are also hunted during the winter. Once the ice has solidly set ice fishing for overwintering Dolly Varden, Arctic char, rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, smelt, northern pike, and burbot begins. Local residents fish in many areas.

In January brown bears give birth in their winter dens. Cubs are born weighing less than two pounds while their mother is dormant. 

This is the time when coastal Native Alaskans traditionally harvest marine mammals including seals and walrus. In mid-March the antlers of bull moose and caribou begin to grow here.

Featured Species

Togiak Refuge is home to at least 283 species of wildlife, including 33 species of fish, 201 species of birds, 31 species of land mammals, 17 species of marine mammals, and 1 amphibian (wood frog). Fish include rainbow trout, Arctic char, Dolly Varden, round whitefish, northern pike, and five Pacific salmon species (Chinook, coho, chum, pink, and sockeye). Mammals include Pacific walrus, harbor seal, Steller sea lions, caribou, brown bear, moose, lynx, wolves and other furbearers. Numerous species of seabirds, shorebirds, landbirds, migratory waterfowl, and raptors are also found within the Refuge. More than 500 species of plants grow on the Refuge in a variety of habitats that include fresh and saltwater wetlands, open water, meadows, mountains, tundra, and forests of spruce and cottonwood.