A Kodiak bear is a brown bear that lives in the Kodiak Archipelago in the Gulf of Alaska. It is the largest of the brown bear species found only on Kodiak Island and nearby islands on the southwestern coast of Alaska. The Kodiak bear lives fairly isolated with an abundant food supply that accounts for its large size. It is also called the Alaskan brown bear.
These bears grow almost as large as polar bears, with adult males standing about 5 feet tall (1.5 m) when walking on all fours. Kodiak bears might stand more than 10 feet tall (3 m) when upright. They typically weigh between 800 and 1,500 pounds (363 and 680 kg) in the wild, while those living in captivity can weigh much more. Female bears weigh about 30 percent less than males and are smaller in stature. These bears live between 20 and 40 years.
Kodiak bears might feed alone or with others. Their main source of food consists of salmon. This nutritious food supplies the fat needed to survive through the harsh winters of the region. The Kodiak bear supplements its diet with berries, nuts, seaweed, and invertebrates. It seems to prefer eating vegetation to killing animals for food.
When the male Kodiak bear is about five months old, it is ready to breed. Sows typically do not bear offspring until they are about nine years old. Breeding usually begins between May and July, with cubs born during the hibernation period, which runs from January until March.
As the weather grows colder, pregnant sows go into hibernation first, usually in dens located in mountainous areas. Adult males are the last to hibernate and the first to emerge in the spring. Studies show about one-fourth of males never hibernate at all.
A sow will bear one or two cubs, which weigh less than a pound (0.4 kg) at birth and are born blind. One distinctive feature of offspring includes a white ring around the neck that remains for several years. By the time spring arrives, cubs might have grown to 20 pounds (9 kg). They typically rely on their mothers for the first two or three years of life. Females give birth about every four years.
A Kodiak bear resembles a grizzly bear, with notable differences. The Kodiak bear is larger and features a wider face. It is covered in shaggy hair that grows longer than hair on a grizzly. The fur ranges from almost blond to a chocolate color. A Kodiak bear’s claws are always visible protruding from flat feet, and a small tail helps identify this bear when compared to the grizzly bear.
This species is protected by the U.S. government, along with its habitat of forests, rivers, and coasts. Kodiak bear hunting is permitted, but strictly regulated to preserve the number of bears in the wild. Obtaining a hunting license for one of these bears is considered quite expensive, and fewer than 200 bears are typically killed each season.