Interesting facts about Kodiak bears

kodiak bear

The Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) is the largest recognized subspecies of brown bear.

Kodiak bears live exclusively on the islands in the Kodiak Archipelago in southwest Alaska.

Bears live throughout the archipelago, adapting to local resources and retaining relatively small home
ranges and comparable densities in most habitats.

They have been isolated on the Kodiak Archipelago since at least the last ice age (10,000 to 12,000 years ago).

The Kodiak bear is, by nature, a long-living animal. The average lifespan in the wild is 20 to 25 years. The oldest known male in the wild was 27 years old, and the oldest female was 35.


Physiologically, the Kodiak bear is very similar to the mainland grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis), with the main difference being in size.

An average adult male measures 244 cm (8 ft) in length and stands 133 cm (4 ft 4 in) tall at the shoulder. Females are about 20 percent smaller in size.

Most adult female Kodiak bears weigh from 181 to 318 kg (399 to 701 lb), while adult males weigh on average from 272 to 635 kg (600 to 1,400 lb).

When standing fully upright on its hind legs, a large male could reach a height of 3 m (9.8 ft).

kodiak bear standing

Hair colors range from blonde to orange (typically females or bears from southern parts of the archipelago) to dark brown. The Kodiak bears’ color is similar to that of their very close relative,
the grizzly bear.

Despite large variation in size, the diet and lifestyle of the Kodiak bear does not differ greatly from that of other brown bears.

Kodiak are diurnal (active during the day), but when faced with competition for food or space, they adopt a more nocturnal (active at night) lifestyle.


Because of the abundance of food on Kodiak Island, they have smaller home ranges than any other brown bears and have no need to defend territories.

Kodiak bears are generally solitary in nature; however, when food is concentrated in small areas, such as along salmon spawning streams, grass/sedge flats, berry patches, a dead whale, or even an open garbage dump, they often occur in large groups. Along a few streams on Kodiak, up to 60 bears can be seen simultaneously in a 2.6 square kilometers (1 square miles) area.

Kodiak bears are omnivores. They are opportunistic feeders that eat roots, berries, grasses, sedges, wild flowers, wild celery and other plants as well as rodents, insects, large mammals (including deer and mountain goats), fish, carrion, and yes, unfortunately, garbage and pet food.

kodiak bear fishing

The Kodiak bear may look like a lumbering giant, but his large physique is mostly muscle. The hump on his back, beneath the neck, is solid muscle the bear uses for digging. It also provides him with the power to use his paws as a weapon.

Kodiak bears have a flat-footed, pigeon-toed walk; however, when one picks up pace, he can cover short distances at speeds of 55 to 65 km/h (35 to 40 mph).

An average walking pace is about 5 km/h (3 mph), which is very similar to the average human walking pace. When he breaks into a jog, he doubles his speed to 10 km/h (6 mph).

kodiak bear walking

Despite their size, these bears can be amazingly graceful swimmers.

In late October, the bears will begin to enter their dens for hibernation. Bears typically enter their dens in the order of pregnant females followed by lone females and females with cubs. Males are the last to enter their dens, and large, old boars in particular may not hibernate at all.

Males begin emerging from their dens in early April, while female with new cubs may stay in dens until late June.

Bears weigh the least when they emerge from their dens in the spring, and can increase their weight by
20–30% during late summer and fall.

Mating season for Kodiak bears is during May and June. They are serially monogamous (having one partner at a time), staying together from two days to two weeks. Cubs are born in the den during January or February. Typical litter sizes is two or three cubs.

kodiak bear cubs

Weighing less than 450 g (1 lb) at birth with little hair and closed eyes, cubs suckle for several months, emerging from the den in May or June, weighing 6.8–9.1 kilograms (15–20 pounds). Cubs often retain a white “natal ring” around their neck for the first few years of life. Most cubs stay with their mothers for three years.

The brown bear species, of which the Kodiak subspecies is a member, is listed as Lower Risk or Least Concern. The Kodiak is not listed as an endangered species by the Endangered Species Act of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service.

There are approximately 3,500 bears that inhabit the Kodiak Archipelago. Their number has been slowly increasing in recent years.

In the past 20 years, bear viewing has become increasingly popular on Kodiak and other parts of Alaska.


Each year, about 4,500 people apply for the 496 permits offered for Kodiak bear hunts. Nonresidents are required to hire a registered guide who is authorized to hunt in a particular area, and this can cost from $10,000–$22,000.

In most circumstances, Kodiak bears keep away and attempt to avoid encounters with people. The most notable exceptions to this behavior pattern occur when bears are surprised, threatened, or attracted by human food, garbage, or hunter-killed game.

The Kodiak Bear has a presence of a warrior. The meaning for Kodiak Bear totem is ferocity, and is a symbol to beware; as it is among the fiercest of animals one can encounter.