The Kodiak bear is the world’s largest bear. The Kodiak is a very specific type of brown or grizzly bear. The bears migrated to the Kodiak Islands off the mainland of Alaska during the last ice age. At that time, a bridge of ice joined the mainland and the islands. When the ice receded the Kodiak Archipelago formed, isolating the species became isolated on the Kodiaks. There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears on the islands today.
A male Kodiak can stand 10 feet tall on its rear legs and nearly 5 feet tall when they are on all fours. At 1,500 pounds, the male Kodiak is the largest bear in the world. Females are thirty percent lighter and smaller than males. Male Kodiak bears are called boars and females are called sows. They mate in May or June and are monogamous for the duration of the mating season. A mated pair will generally stay together for a few days or weeks. When the ovum is fertilized, it goes through a few cell divisions then goes into a state of suspended animation until the winter. The egg then implants itself in the uterus and starts to develop. Cubs are born in the spring, usually two or 3 to a litter. Sometimes female Kodiaks are observed with five or six cubs, because they adopt cubs from other litters.
Kodiak bears are omnivores, eating grass, plants and berries. They also eat fish. Most Kodiaks do not actively hunt mammals. The bears select food of high nutrition value to ensure maximum weight gain for the bear. Despite what many believe, there has only been one human death attributed to the Kodiak bear in the last 75 years. Injuries to humans from attacking Kodiak bears occur about once every two years.
Although the Kodiak prefers to be active during the daylight hours, if there is a shortage of food or lack of space, they adopt a nocturnal lifestyle. The Kodiak does not protect territory but stays in one area called a home range. Because of the variety of food available to the bears on the Kodiak islands, they have some of the smallest home ranges of brown bears.
Alaskan natives have traditionally hunted the Kodiak for food and clothing. At one time, during the 1800’s commercial fur hunters were given about 10 dollars for a bearskin. In 1941, due to concern over the bear population, the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge was created with stricter regulation governing the hunting of the Kodiak bear. Today, about 180 bears are killed per year under tight regulation. The Alaskan government issues 496 permits per year to the 5,000 Alaskan natives who apply for hunting permits. Non-Alaskan natives wishing to hunt Kodiak bears must pay as much as $21,000 per hunt.
Source: Alaska Department of Fish and Game