It is a refuge for orphaned or injured wildlife, as well as home or temporary home to captive born and translocated wildlife such as wood bison. The center has reintroduced elk back into Alaska, and is currently involved in a program for the reintroduction of the wood bison.
This wildlife conservation center is open daily March through December, and on weekends in January and February.
Founded by Mike Miller, The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center opened in 1993 as the for-profit Big Game Alaska."
In 1999, the center became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, "Big Game Alaska, Inc. dba the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC)," with Miller serving as the center's executive director. The name was officially changed to Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Inc. in 2007.
Animals at the center include wolves, Grizzly bears, black bears, Alaskan moose, red foxes, elk, muskoxen, sitka black tailed deer, caribou, Canadian lynxes, bald eagles, great horned owls, northern hawk-owls, wood bison, and porcupines. This wildlife conservation center is also home to coyotes.
Most of the animals are cared for in large natural habitats, including enclosures designed for the display of multiple (mixed) species. For instance, three brown bears live in an 21-acre (8.5 ha) habitat of rolling brushland and conifers, and two black bears are housed in a 14-acre (5.7 ha) enclosure with a stream.
The center offers educational programs and tours in self-guided, drive-through or walk-through formats.
The AWWC has reintroduced elk back into Alaska.
Starting in 2003, the center has taken part in a program to reintroduce the wood bison back into Alaska after a 100-year absence. The wood bison is the largest land mammal in North America, and is a keystone grazing herbivore from the region. The first release date is scheduled for 2011. This project is a joint effort with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game and other conservation groups.
In 2008, the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center embarked on plans to develop an Alaskan bear conservation science and education facility and interpretive center.
The B.E.A.R.S. (Bear Education Awareness Research Sanctuary) exhibit, will be 11,000-square-foot (1,000 m) "green" facility that will include habitat enhancements and an 30-acre (120,000 m) expansion for the center's brown and black bear residents. In addition, an interpretive educational center and conservation research facility dedicated to advancing the public's awareness and appreciation for Alaska's bears (the polar bear, American black bear and grizzly or brown bear) is currently under development. The facility will permit visitors to explore interactive experiences featuring thematic displays of Alaska's bears while offering viewing of our own bears ambassadors on exhibit from inside the interpretive center or via webcam. Education and outreach programs will serve as the foundation for B.E.A.R.S. engagement programs. Conservation and science initiatives will serve to support the facility's outreach programs. The center has dedicated staff to develop B.E.A.R.S. as a resource hub for Alaskan Bear Conservation programs, inviting international colleagues and enthusiasts to visit and convey conservation message for Alaska's bears and the five other species around the world.
Several documentaries, features films, and other video media have been shot on location at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center including a documentary for National Geographic and "Into Alaska" featuring Jeff Corwin in 2007, and "Into the Wild," starring Emile Hirsch. Other special guests to the center include Jungle Jack Hanna who filmed a few segments for his syndicated program.
In July 2010 the center's resident porcupine, "Snickers," gained worldwide publicity from video footage in which the friendly rodent appeared to behave like a puppy. The video went 'viral' on the internet in a matter of days.