The majestic Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi, named for Russian naturalist Dr. A. Th. von Middendorff) is native to the Northern Hemisphere, lives only in the south of Alaska on the Kodiak Archipelago Islands, and is also known as the Alaskan Brown Bear. They are the largest bears in the world and are a subspecies of the grizzly and brown bear. They can live to the ripe old age of forty-years old.
Appearance of the Kodiak bear:
The Kodiak bear’s coloring ranges from blond to dark brown to black. They have a streamline nose, and look differently than other bears. They have large round heads and their facial profile is conclave.
Kodiak bears have large humps on their shoulders that are actually a mass of muscle that allows the Kodiak bear to dig and use their powerful paws to strike their prey. A blow from this powerhouse can prove devastating for man or animal on the receiving end.
The Kodiak bear male is about 10 ½ feet tall when standing up on its hind legs and weigh upwards of 1,500 pounds. Females are smaller in size and weight.
Kodiak Bear Temperament:
Kodiak bears are generally solitary animals but they are often found in groups around feeding areas. Kodiak bears are known to stay up all day and are active unless they are competing for food and space, then they become nocturnal.
How do Kodiak bears hunt?
Kodiak bears, like tigers, ambush their prey and use their sharp canine teeth in order to bite into their preys neck.
What do Kodiak bears eat?
Contrary to popular belief, Kodiak bears are mostly omnivores, meaning they eat grass, plants, and berries. They also feed on Salmon, an important part of the Kodiak bear diet, when it’s available until late summer. Roughly three-quarters of their diet comes from eating vegetation.
When the Kodiak bear does eat meat, it is generally in the form of young Moose, deer, or old, sick animals who are unable to run fast enough to get away from the bear.
Kodiak bear mating and breeding:
Male Kodiak bears are monogamous, meaning that they mate with only one female every year. Sexual maturity is reached at 5-years old. Females are able to continue having cubs for the rest of their lives at four-year intervals.
Mating season for Kodiak bears is in May and June, with cubs being born in January or February. The newborn cubs weigh in at about one pound. A typical litter consists of two or three cubs. Unfortunately, almost half of all cubs will die within their first year of life – most falling victim to adult males.
Most Kodiak bear cubs remain with their mother for the first three years of life
Kodiak bears begin preparing for hibernation about six months prior by consuming foods that will help build up fat stores that will carry them through the six-month hibernation period. They put on upwards of 400 pounds during the summer in order to make it through the winter months.
Kodiak bears enter their dens in late October every year. Pregnant female Kodiak bears (or sows) enter first followed by males — though some don’t hibernate at all and stay awake all winter without entering the den. In April, males emerge first. Those females with new cubs may stay as late as June.
During hibernation, their temperatures decrease only slightly but their heart rates and breathing dramatically increase. While hibernating, the bears don’t eat, drink, or go to the bathroom.
Kodiak Bear Attacks and Safety:
Kodiak bears are usually shy and avoid encounters with humans unless they feel they are being threatened or are surprised.
It is recommended that people avoid any situations where an attack could happen such as leaving food or trash laying around the campsite, and hunters should take care after killing game because bears are attracted to the carcass.
Kodiak bears are large, but don’t let this fool you. They have great physical stamina and have been clocked at speeds in excess of 35 mph.
Despite their beauty and usual shyness around people, they should be avoided. You never know when a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation could arise if you should happen across a Kodiak bear.
The Scandinavian Bear Research project states that it’s a very dangerous situation for humans should they happen to get in the way of a mother bear and its cub(s). Other dangerous situations include meeting a bear that has been injured, meeting a bear in its cave, and meeting a bear that has been provoked by a dog.
If you happen to be in an area that is known to have bears, carry a big stick or an air horn with you and walk softly. If you do happen to encounter a bear, do not run away, make eye contact or make any threatening moves. If you are attacked, experts suggest you play dead by going into the fetal position and do not panic.
Sources: Kodiak Bear Facts