Kodiak Bears

Kodiak bears (Ursus arctos middendorffi) also referred to as the Kodiak brown bear is a brown bear subspecies native to Kodiak Islands, Alaska.

Kodiak bear standing in a grassy field.

Habitat

These types of bears are native to the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago which is just off the coast of Alaska (to the south). More specifically, Kodiak, Afognak, Shuyak, Raspberry, Uganik, Sitkalidak, and neighboring islands.

Description

On average, male Kodiak bears can reach up to 10 feet tall when standing upright. They can weigh anywhere between 1000 to 1200 pounds. Female Kodiak bears, on the other hand, are about 20% shorter and 30% lighter than the males.

The color of their fur varies with some Kodiak bears having lighter shades of brown while others have darker brown shades. Blonde and orange are also common colors for bears that live further south.

Female Kodiak bear and cub
Kodiak bear and her cub.

Diet

Like other brown bears, Kodiak bears are omnivorous mammals. The bear has a readily available abundance of food which results in their large size.

When the bears awake from hibernation, the first thing they eat is dead animals and freshly sprouted vegetation. As spring nears, the bears focus on salmon well into October. Kodiak bears eat all five species of Pacific salmon that occur around the islands.

Elderberries are also a favorite and now overlap with the salmon season. Some bears prefer to eat elderberries than put in the effort to catch salmon. They also feed on wind-rowed seaweed and invertebrates on some beaches throughout the year.

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Reproduction

Kodiak bears are able to reproduce from the age of 5. However, most females do not have cubs until the age of 9. Cubs are born during hibernation and weigh less than a pound when born. The mother and her cubs live together for about 3 years.

Status

There are approximately 3,500 bears living within the Kodiak Archipelago. Over the years, the population has been slowly increasing despite the expansion of human infrastructure and hunting. While hunting is allowed, only 325 permits are issued each year and about 160 bears are killed.

Concern over reduced bear populations prompted sportsmen to petition the Federal government to protect bears and their habitat on Kodiak. The results of their efforts were stricter regulations and the creation of Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in 1941.

Interesting Facts About Kodiak Bears

  • The Kodiak brown bears are the largest subspecies of brown bears.
  • They have lived isolated from other bears for over 10,000 years. 
  • There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears; a density of about 0.7 bears per square mile.
  • Kodiak bears can be as heavy or heavier than polar bears but the polar bear holds the record for largest bear species on average.
  • The largest verified size for a captive Kodiak bear was for a bear that lived at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, North Dakota.
  • Nicknamed “Clyde,” the bear weighed 2,130 lb when he died in June 1987 at the age of 22.
  • The average lifespan of Kodiak bears is 25 years.
  • The oldest known wild Kodiak bear was a 34-year-old sow. The oldest boar was 27.
  • Female Kodiak bears reproduce one every 4 years.
  • Females have 2 to 4 cubs but are known to adopt cubs from other mothers so it is not uncommon to see a female with 6 cubs.
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