The Kodiak Bear - the Largest Bears in the United States
A Kodiak Bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi)
Ursus arctos middendorffi, The Kodiak Bear
The Kodiak bear is not a grizzly bear, but is it's own distinct species of brown bear that is closely related to the grizzly bear. The Kodiak bear is also related closely to the Russian brown bear, which is really the Eurasian brown bear that once lived as far away West from Russia as the British Islands. The English name Kodiak Bear, strangely enough, probably isn't the name most often used for this animal, very likely the Native Americans that inhabit the Kodiak Archipelago of South Western Alaska use the name from their language more often than anyone else, and in the Native's tongue this bear is called Taquka-aq.
If you don't believe in evolution, then the Kodiak bear is a major challenge for you, as it is CLEARLY an evolved species of brown bear that evolved from the same ancestors as did the grizzly bear and the Eurasian brown bear, and for that matter, the polar bear - which is also a brown bear, but a white or cream coloured one. You see, the Kodiak bears have been genetically isolated from all the other species of brown bear for at least ten thousand years, they got to their homeland by crossing the ice, and when the ice melted, they (obviously) stayed there, and developed and evolved due to whatever environmental factors that were specific to that ecosystem, and over time, there you have it - the Kodiak bear, a unique species of brown bear.
The Kodiak Bear - That's One Big Bear!
The Kodiak Bear Size
The size of the Kodiak bear is really a tie for first with the polar bear for biggest bear contest's first prize. Oh I know you didn't realize that there was a contest afoot, it was held in my head. An adult male Kodiak bear stands five feet tall at it's shoulders while standing on his four legs, but should he stand up as a human always does on his back two legs, then they can easily be ten feet tall. The heaviest Kodiak bear in captivity weighed sixteen hundred and seventy pounds. There's few people brave enough to ask a wild Kodiak bear to take a moment and step on some scales, the one's that have tried that, well, we've not heard back from them. I think they must have gotten lost, or just decided to stay on the Kodiak Archipelago, in one form or another, if you catch my jive talking drift.
The facts are probably that the female bears are always more dangerous than are the males, as there's nothing more dangerous than a female bear with cubs, and especially is this true in the different species of brown bear, Kodiak included. The females are, of course, a bit smaller than are the males, and there is a lot of sexual dimorphism in bears. According to Wikipedia, the females average twenty percent smaller in size, and thirty percent lighter in weight, and isn't that snazzy data?
The Kodiak and the polar bears are two largest extant terrestrial carnivores, you've got to be a killer whale to be a bigger carnivore, or maybe a Loch Ness Nessie, if you're into that.
The Kodiak Archipelago Of Alaska - The Only Home Of The Wild Kodiak Bears
The Kodiak Bear Population.
I try to get people to think in biological terminology as much as I can, as it helps me to do so as well; so when you consider that the Kodiak bears live only on a few islands of the Kodiak archipelago, you should then ask yourself,
What about genetic stagnation? Those bears have a very small gene pool to work with towards their future!
Well, it's true, there are lots of Kodiak bears getting married to their cousins; no word yet on the official stance of Kodiak bears should gay cousin bears decide to marry, but that's beside the point, gay Kodiak bears don't contribute much to the gene pool anyway.
Ah, but I've digressed....
Despite the lack of genetic diversity in the Kodiak bears, they show no signs of the typical negatives of inbreeding. The Kodiak bears, however, may be more susceptible to new diseases and parasites than other bears because of it. Kodiak bear numbers are increasing, and there is almost an average of one bear per square mile on the Kodiak archipelago!
There are less than four thousand of these bears in the entire world, but they are NOT considered threatened or endangered bears as a species due to the high population density in their small and very specific habitat.
The Kodiak Bear
A Big Bear with a Big Success Story
- The Kodiak Bear
Kodiak Brown Bears, Kodiak Bear
Kodiak bears (Ursus arctos middendorffi)
- Kodiak Bears - Bears Of The World
Social behavior, habitat, breeding, and endangerment of Kodiak Bears of Alaska.
Kodiak Bear Reproduction And Life Span
Kodiak bears are ready to mate at five years of age, and the females average a litter of cubs every four years afterwards. Mating season is May and June, and Kodiak bears observe serial monogamy in mating. Serial monogamy means that they do not mate with any other bear during the mating season - but the next go round they may or may not mate with the same opposite sex bear. Kodiak bear cubs are born in either January or February weighing less than one pound.
Kodiak bear sows average 2.4 cubs per litter, but sometimes a sow will adopt cubs from other litters. The cubs will stay with their mother for about three years before departing, and the female cubs will always stay within their mother's range. Out of all the cubs born to Kodiak bear mothers, the sad truth is that only about half of them will survive past their childhood, and the major reason for this is that male Kodiak bears will often eat Kodiak bear cubs.
The majority of Kodiak bear sows die of natural causes in the wild, but the largest majority of males die due to hunting. While I do not typically support hunting and killing anything that someone isn't planning on eating, the Kodiak bear population is on the rise, and the hunting program on the Kodiak Islands is considered the most successful in the world so far as maintaining an optimum population of Kodiak bears. Simply put, without the hunting program on the Kodiak archipelago, the bear population would be too high, and thus damaging to the ecosystem on the islands in a similar way to how the wild boar populations here in the south is damaging to our Texas ecosystems.
Would I personally hunt the Kodiak bear? Absolutely not - that's not hunting, that is nothing more than shooting fish in a barrel, with nearly one bear per square mile, there is no sport in that, but if even the biologist and ecologist are saying that the Kodiak bear hunting program is the most successful wildlife management program in the world, then I'll defer to their wisdom on this issue.
A Cute Kodiak Bear Cub
Denning Or Hibernation
Bears do not truly hibernate, what bears do in the coldest parts of Winter is really a false hibernation, but the word denning also applies, and describes the same thing. Facts of the matter concerning Kodiak bears is not all of them even bother with that energy saving biological ritual slumber. Twenty five percent of Kodiak bears seem to be denning agnostics. Yes, of course I made the italicized term up, but the facts are still the same.
So far as the Kodiak bears that do the Winter's slumber deal, the pregnant females are the first to enter the dens, and the males are the first to leave them. The Kodiak bears generally dig their dens in the side of hills, and the season of false hibernation can last from late October to late June.
An Elderly Kodiak Bear
Food - What Do Kodiak Bears Eat?
The Kodiak bears are mostly daytime folks, but if food gets scarce, they'll look for meals at night. These bears (along with the polar bears) are often said to be the largest terrestrial carnivores, but this is not true. Yes, Kodiak bears are carnivorous, but they are truly omnivores, and that means that they'll eat all sorts of things, and the facts are that the Kodiak bear is most often eating plant material instead of meat.
When the Kodiak bear emerges from it's den in the Spring (if it did "den up" in the false hibernation fashion) then whatever animal has died during the Winter is the first thing the Kodiak bear will make a meal of. Isn't it wonderful how nature works so efficiently in the animal kingdom? Do you know WHY mankind is truly separate from the animals? Mankind has an EGO that it values over anything else - but not so the Kodiak bear, it works on mother nature's auto pilot, and does things in the most efficient and beneficial possible way, and all on instinct.
Yes, of course Kodiak bears love salmon, and they also love to eat any other fish that they can catch. ALL North American bears are the same in this manner of dining. Kodiak bears are generally just lazy when it comes to killing something for food, yes, some do it, but NO, most do not. Deer, Moose, and mountain goats have it easy on the Kodiak Archipelago. Berries, well, just as with the grizzly bears, berries RELY on Kodiak bears eating them so as their seeds (the berry sees) are spread about in the bear's scat.
Big And Beautiful - The Kodiak Bear
Senses, Intelligence, and Other Facts About Kodiak Bears
Kodiak bears are thought to have roughly the same level of eyesight as a human, the same hearing as a dog, and a sense of smell that is possibly four times that of a dog. The intelligence of these very large animals is thought to be somewhere between that of a dog, and a primate - these bears are anything but "dumb" so far as the intelligence within the animal kingdom is concerned. They have unique personalities just like your family dog has, and they react to different situations according to their personality and their unique individual experiences. In fact, Kodiak bears talk to each other through a very complex verbal and physical manner. They make all kinds of different grunts, growls, and howls along with various and sundry poses to express themselves.
Kodiak bears are NOT as aggressive towards humans as are their cousins the grizzly bears or the polar bears, and the reason for this is simple - it's evolution. You see, the Kodiak islands have been inhabited by Native Americans for longer than our recorded history, or theirs, can tell us, and the bears have become very used to human beings being nearby. Yes, it's very dangerous to mess with one - but in the video I provided above (assuming you took a minute to view it) the men in the video were nervous, but that video is VASTLY different from the video of the men encountering a grizzly bear in Alaska (NOT in the Kodiak archipelago!). Obviously, the men in the video were aware of the matters at hand - you do not RUN from a Kodiak bear, it will instinctively chase you. You do not FEED a Kodiak bear, as it will then start approaching humans for food (as a learned behaviour) and this will inevitably proof fatal for either the human, the bear, or both.
No human has been killed by a Kodiak bear (and there is one bear per square mile on the Kodiak archipelago!) since 1999, and prior to that, no humans were killed by Kodiak bears since 1921!!!!!!! These bears are AMAZINGLY calm and acclimated to humans! The incident in 1921, and you can read about that on Wikipedia, was an instance of human stupidity so profound that even this Texan (where there are no brown bears) would have known better to have been a part of.
The following is simply and beautifully presented in such a way so that anyone willing could understand it. Kodiak bears are a HUGE attraction to the Kodiak Archipelago of Alaska, and the bears have been living with humans there for 8000 or more years, and so the people there all wish to keep things just as they are now - humans and bears at peace with one another, and no dead bodies to rile the overly unforgiving nature of humans that have inevitably done something out of ignorance to provoke or encourage a bear:
In other words, the next two paragraphs aren't mine - they're from one of the two links to sites that I included in blue up above.
Avoid bears whenever possible and give it every opportunity to avoid you. If you do encounter a bear at close distance, remain calm. Attacks are rare. Most bears are only interested in protecting food, cubs or their “personal space,” so give them plenty of space. Identify yourself as human. Talk to the bear in a normal voice. Wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening. You may try to back away slowly and diagonally, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.
Don’t run. You cannot out run a bear and, like dogs, they will chase a fleeing animal. A charging bear might get to within a few feet of you before stopping. Continue waving your arms and talking to the bear. If it does not leave or continues to approach, become more defensive. Raise your voice, beat on pans, use noisemakers, and throw rocks or sticks. Drive a bear off rather than let it follow you. If with a group, stand shoulder to shoulder to present a larger outline. Defend yourself against a bear entering your tent or cabin.
The Kodiak Bear - This Man Isn't Being Attacked
© 2012 Wesman Todd Shaw