Kodiak Bear

Kodiak Bear

Overview
The Kodiak bear also known as the Kodiak brown bear or the Alaskan grizzly bear or American brown bear, occupies the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago
Kodiak Archipelago
The Kodiak Archipelago is an archipelago, or group of islands, south of main land mass of the state of Alaska , about by air south of Anchorage in the Gulf of Alaska. The largest island in the archipelago is Kodiak Island, the second largest island in the United States...

 in South-Western Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

. Its name in the Alutiiq
Alutiiq
The Alutiiq , also called Pacific Yupik or Sugpiaq, are a southern coastal people of the Native peoples of Alaska. Their language is called Sugstun, and it is one of Eskimo languages, belonging to the Yup’ik branch of these languages. They are not to be confused with the Aleuts, who live further...

 language is Taquka-aq. It is the largest subspecies of brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

.

Taxonomist C.H. Merriam was the first to recognize Kodiak bears as unique and he named the species "Ursus middendorffi" in honor of the celebrated Russian naturalist Dr.
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Encyclopedia
The Kodiak bear also known as the Kodiak brown bear or the Alaskan grizzly bear or American brown bear, occupies the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago
Kodiak Archipelago
The Kodiak Archipelago is an archipelago, or group of islands, south of main land mass of the state of Alaska , about by air south of Anchorage in the Gulf of Alaska. The largest island in the archipelago is Kodiak Island, the second largest island in the United States...

 in South-Western Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

. Its name in the Alutiiq
Alutiiq
The Alutiiq , also called Pacific Yupik or Sugpiaq, are a southern coastal people of the Native peoples of Alaska. Their language is called Sugstun, and it is one of Eskimo languages, belonging to the Yup’ik branch of these languages. They are not to be confused with the Aleuts, who live further...

 language is Taquka-aq. It is the largest subspecies of brown bear
Brown Bear
The brown bear is a large bear distributed across much of northern Eurasia and North America. It can weigh from and its largest subspecies, the Kodiak Bear, rivals the polar bear as the largest member of the bear family and as the largest land-based predator.There are several recognized...

.

Taxonomy


Taxonomist C.H. Merriam was the first to recognize Kodiak bears as unique and he named the species "Ursus middendorffi" in honor of the celebrated Russian naturalist Dr. A. Th. von Middendorff
Alexander von Middendorff
Alexander Theodor von Middendorff was a Baltic German zoologist and explorer.- Early life :Middendorff's mother Sophia Johanson was an Estonian peasant girl who had been sent to Saint Petersburg for education by her parents. There she met with the future director of the St...

. Subsequent taxonomic revisions merged most North American brown bears into a single subspecies (Ursus arctos horribilis), but Kodiak bears are still considered to be a unique subspecies (Ursus arctos middendorffi).
Recent investigations of genetic samples from bears on Kodiak have shown that they are closely related to brown bears on the Alaska Peninsula and Kamchatka, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. It appears that Kodiak bears have been genetically isolated since at least the last ice age (10,000 to 12,000 years ago) and there is very little genetic diversity within the population. Although the current population is healthy and productive, and has shown no overt adverse signs of inbreeding
Inbreeding
Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents. Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is...

, it may be more susceptible to new diseases or parasites than other more diverse brown bear populations

Color



Hair colors range from blond to orange (typically females or bears from southern parts of the archipelago) to dark brown. Cubs often retain a white “natal ring” around their neck for the first couple years of life. The Kodiak's color is similar to that of their very close relative, the Grizzly bear
Grizzly Bear
The grizzly bear , also known as the silvertip bear, the grizzly, or the North American brown bear, is a subspecies of brown bear that generally lives in the uplands of western North America...

.

Size


Few Kodiak bears have been weighed in the wild, so some of the weights are estimates. Size range for females is from 225 kg (500 lbs) to 315 kg (700 lbs) and for males 360 kg (800 lbs) to 635 kg (1400 lbs). Mature males average 480–533 kg (1,058–1,175 lb) over the course of the year, and can weigh up to 680 kg (1500 lbs) at peak times. Females are typically about 20% smaller and 30% lighter than males and adult sizes are attained when bears are 6 years old. 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. Bears in captivity can sometimes attain weights considerably greater than those of wild bears.

An adult male Kodiak bear stands up to 1.5 m (5 ft) tall at the shoulder when it is standing on all four legs. When standing fully upright on its hind legs, a large male could reach a height of 3 m (10 ft). The largest Kodiak bear on record grew in captivity and died in the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo
Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is a mountainside zoo, located southwest of downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado on Cheyenne Mountain in the United States at an elevation of above sea level. The Zoo sits on out of a footprint. It is located west of the Broadmoor Hotel Resort along the slopes of Cheyenne...

 in December 1955, weighing 757 kg (1670 lb).

They are the largest brown bear subspecies, and are comparable in size to polar bear
Polar Bear
The polar bear is a bear native largely within the Arctic Circle encompassing the Arctic Ocean, its surrounding seas and surrounding land masses. It is the world's largest land carnivore and also the largest bear, together with the omnivorous Kodiak Bear, which is approximately the same size...

s. That makes Kodiak bears and polar bears both the two largest members of the bear family and the two largest extant terrestrial carnivores.

The standard method of evaluating the size of bears is by measuring their skull
Skull
The skull is a bony structure in the head of many animals that supports the structures of the face and forms a cavity for the brain.The skull is composed of two parts: the cranium and the mandible. A skull without a mandible is only a cranium. Animals that have skulls are called craniates...

s. Most North American hunting organizations and management agencies use calipers to measure the length of the skull (back of sagittal crest
Sagittal crest
A sagittal crest is a ridge of bone running lengthwise along the midline of the top of the skull of many mammalian and reptilian skulls, among others....

 on the back of the skull to the front tooth) and the width (maximum width between the zygomatic arch
Zygomatic arch
The zygomatic arch or cheek bone is formed by the zygomatic process of temporal bone and the temporal process of the zygomatic bone , the two being united by an oblique suture; the tendon of the Temporalis passes medial to the arch to gain insertion into the coronoid process...

es — “cheek bones”). The total skull size is the sum of these two measurements. The largest bear ever killed in North America was from Kodiak Island with a total skull size of 78.1 cm (30.75 in), and 8 of the top 10 brown bears listed in the Boone and Crockett record book are from Kodiak. The average skull size of Kodiak bears that were killed by hunters in the first five years of the 21st century was 63.8 cm (25.1 in) for boars and 55.4 cm (21.8 in) for sows.

Distribution and density


Although the term “Kodiak bear” is widely used to include all coastal Alaska brown bears, the subspecies only occurs on the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago (Kodiak, Afognak, Shuyak, Raspberry, Uganik, Sitkalidak, and adjacent islands). The Kodiak bear population was estimated to include 3,526 bears in 2005, yielding an estimated archipelago-wide population density of 0.7 bears/square mile (271.2 bears/1000 km²). During the past decade the population has been slowly increasing.

Reproduction and survival



Kodiak bears reach sexual maturity at age five and the average time between litters is four years. 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. As soon as the egg is fertilized and divides a few times, it enters a state of suspended animation until autumn when it finally implants on the uterine wall and begins to grow again. Cubs are born in the den during January or February. Weighing less than a pound (<450 g) at birth with little hair and closed eyes, they suckle for several months, emerging from the den in May or June, weighing 15–20 pounds (7–9 kg). Typical litter sizes on Kodiak are 2–3 cubs, with a long-term average of 2.4 cubs per litter. Sows are sometimes seen with five or six cubs in tow, probably due to adopting cubs from other litters. Most cubs stay with their mothers for three years. Almost half of the cubs die before they leave, with cannibalism
Cannibalism
Cannibalism is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings. It is also called anthropophagy...

 by adult males being one of the major causes of death.

Kodiak bears that have recently left their mothers, at ages 3–5 years, have high mortality rates with only 56 percent of males and 89 percent of females surviving. Most young female bears stay within or near their mother’s home range, while most males move farther away. Kodiak bears become sexually mature at age five, but most sows are over nine years old when they successfully wean their first litter. The average interval between litters is about four years. Sows continue to produce cubs throughout their lives but their productivity diminishes after they are 20 years old. Most adult sows die of natural causes (56 percent) while most adult bears are killed by hunters (91 percent). The oldest known bear in wild was 27 years old, and the oldest sow was 34 .

Denning


Kodiak bears begin entering their dens in late October. Pregnant sows are usually the first to go to dens, males are the last. Males begin emerging from their dens in early April, while sows with new cubs may stay in dens until late June. Bears living on the north end of Kodiak Island tend to have longer denning periods than bears in the southern areas. Most Kodiak bears dig their dens in hill or mountain sides and they use a wide variety of denning habitats depending on which part of the archipelago they live on. Almost a quarter of the adult bears forgo denning, staying somewhat active throughout the winter.

Home Range


Bears on Kodiak are naturally diurnal (active during the day), but when faced with competition for food or space, they adopt a more nocturnal (active at night) lifestyle. This behavior is especially evident in the bears that live near and within Kodiak City. Kodiak bears do not defend territories, but they do have traditional areas that they use each year (home ranges). Because of the rich variety of foods available on Kodiak, the bears on the archipelago have some of the smallest home ranges of any brown bear populations in North America and there is a great deal of overlap among the ranges of individual bears. Home ranges of adult sows on Kodiak Island average 50 sq mi (129.5 km²), while bear home ranges average 97 sq mi (251.2 km²).

Habitat and feeding habits



The islands of the Kodiak Archipelago have a subpolar oceanic climate with cool temperatures, overcast skies, fog, windy conditions and moderate to heavy precipitation throughout most of the year. Although the archipelago only covers about 5000 sq mi (12,949.9 km²) there is a rich variety of topography and vegetation that ranges from dense forests of Sitka spruce
Sitka Spruce
Picea sitchensis, the Sitka Spruce, is a large coniferous evergreen tree growing to 50–70 m tall, exceptionally to 95 m tall, and with a trunk diameter of up to 5 m, exceptionally to 6–7 m diameter...

 on the northern islands, to steep glaciated mountains rising to Koniag Peak's 4470 ft (1,362.5 m) along the central spine of Kodiak Island, to rolling hills and flat tundra on the south end of the archipelago. About 14,000 people live on the archipelago, primarily in and around Kodiak city
Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak is one of 7 communities and the main city on Kodiak Island, Kodiak Island Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. All commercial transportation between the entire island and the outside world goes through this city either via ferryboat or airline...

 and six outlying villages. Roads and other human alterations are generally limited to Afognak Island and the northeastern part of Kodiak Island. About half of the archipelago is included in the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge
Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge
The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is a United States National Wildlife Refuge in the Kodiak Archipelago in southwestern Alaska, United States....

.

Bears live throughout the archipelago, adapting to local resources and retaining relatively small home ranges and comparable densities in most habitats. Emerging vegetation and animals that died during the winter are the first foods bears eat in the spring. As summer progresses, a wide variety of vegetation supplies nutritional needs until salmon
Salmon
Salmon is the common name for several species of fish in the family Salmonidae. Several other fish in the same family are called trout; the difference is often said to be that salmon migrate and trout are resident, but this distinction does not strictly hold true...

 return. Salmon runs extend from May through September on most of the archipelago and bears consume the five species of Pacific salmon that spawn in local streams and lakes. In the late summer and early fall, bears consume several types of berries. Bears also feed on wind-rowed seaweed and invertebrates on some beaches throughout the year. Although deer
Deer
Deer are the ruminant mammals forming the family Cervidae. Species in the Cervidae family include white-tailed deer, elk, moose, red deer, reindeer, fallow deer, roe deer and chital. Male deer of all species and female reindeer grow and shed new antlers each year...

, moose
Moose
The moose or Eurasian elk is the largest extant species in the deer family. Moose are distinguished by the palmate antlers of the males; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic configuration...

 and mountain goat
Mountain goat
The Mountain Goat , also known as the Rocky Mountain Goat, is a large-hoofed mammal found only in North America. Despite its vernacular name, it is not a member of Capra, the genus of true goats...

s are abundant on the archipelago, few Kodiak bears actively prey on them.

Sensory perception and intelligence


There have been no scientific studies evaluating the sensory perception or intelligence of Kodiak bears. Subjective observations and comparisons to other bears suggest that Kodiak bears have eyesight that is comparable to humans (they are not “near sighted”), have hearing that is comparable to an average dog, and have a sense of smell that is up to four times more acute than the average dog. Their level of intelligence seems to be somewhere between that of an average canine and a primate. Due to their level of intelligence, individual bears have personalities and unique ways of dealing with situations.

Interactions with other bears


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 drainages on Kodiak, up to 60 bears can be seen simultaneously in a square mile area (2.6 km2). To maximize food intake at these important areas, bears have learned to minimize fighting and fatal interactions by developing a complex language (both verbal and body posturing) and social structure.

Interactions with people


In most circumstances, Kodiak bears are shy 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. Bear safety precautions center around avoiding such situations, understanding bear needs and behavior, and learning how to recognize the warning signs bears give when stressed.

The most recent occurrence of a fatal bear attack on a person on the Kodiak archipelago was in 1999. The National Geographic Society
National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society , headquartered in Washington, D.C. in the United States, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. Its interests include geography, archaeology and natural science, the promotion of environmental and historical...

 filmed a television program about the attack and another, both of which occurred on Raspberry Island
Raspberry Island (Alaska)
Raspberry Island is an island of the Kodiak Archipelago located in the Gulf of Alaska in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is located two miles northwest of Whale Island, and just across the mile wide Raspberry Strait from the southwestern end of Afognak. The island is separated from Kodiak Island by...

, part of the Kodiak archipelago and home to two full service wilderness lodges. Both hunters were returning to game they had killed previously and left alone to go kill another. One of the hunters was killed by the bear and the other, after being attacked, stabbed the bear with a knife, then recovered his rifle and killed the attacking bear. Prior to that, the last fatality was in 1921. Both incidents involved hunters that were hunting by themselves. About once every other year a bear injures a person on Kodiak.

Prehistory


Early human occupants of the archipelago looked to the sea for their sustenance. At that time, Kodiak Natives (Alutiiqs) occasionally hunted bears, using their meat for food, hides for clothing and bedding, and teeth for adornment. Traditional stories often revolved around the similarity between bears and humans, and around the mystical nature of bears because of their proximity to the spirit world. In their indigenous language, in fact, 'Alutiiq' means 'fierce bear hunter'.

Commercial harvests


Russian entrepreneurs came to the area in the late 18th century to capitalize on the abundant fur resources. Bear hides were considered a “minor fur” and sold for about the same price as river otter pelts. The number of bears harvested increased substantially when sea otter populations declined and after the United States acquired Alaska in 1867, bear harvests on Kodiak increased, peaking at as many as 250 bears per year. Commercial fishing activities increased in the late 1880s and canneries proliferated throughout the archipelago. Bears were viewed as competitors for the salmon resource and were routinely shot when seen on streams or coasts. At the same time, sportsmen and scientists had recognized the Kodiak bear as the largest in the world, and they voiced concerns about overharvesting the population.

Guided hunters and competition for resources


Professional interest in guided Kodiak bear hunts and a concern for unregulated resource use in frontier lands such as Alaska prompted the territorial government’s newly established Alaska Game Commission to abolish commercial bear hunting (selling the hides) on the archipelago in 1925. The impacts of the new regulations seemed to restore bear populations on the Kodiak islands. By the 1930s, ranchers on northeast Kodiak reported an increase in bear problems and demanded action. Bears were also seen as a threat to the expanding commercial salmon fishing industry. To address the dilemma of conserving bears while protecting cattle, salmon and people, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge by Executive Order in 1941. The 1900000 acres (7,689 km²) refuge roughly encompasses the southwestern two-thirds of Kodiak Island, Uganik Island, the Red Peaks area on northwestern Afognak Island, and all of Ban Island.

Alaska achieved statehood in 1959 and assumed responsibility for managing the state’s wildlife. The Alaska Board of Game reduced bear-hunting seasons on Afognak
Afognak
Afognak is an island north of Kodiak Island in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is 43 miles from east to west and 23 miles from north to south and has a land area of , making it the 18th largest island in the United States. The coast is split by many long, narrow bays...

 and Raspberry islands and on the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, but liberalized bear seasons on non-refuge lands on Kodiak. During the 1960s, state biologists worked with ranchers along the Kodiak road system to examine and reduce the predation problem. Biologists reported that cattle and bears were not compatible on the same ranges and potential solutions included poisons, fences to isolate cattle ranges, and aerial shooting of bears. Again, sport hunters voiced their support for Kodiak bears. In spite of public pressure, the state continued actively pursuing and dispatching problem bears until 1970.

Changes in land status


In 1971, the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) resolved many long-standing land issues with aboriginal Alaskans statewide. The impacts were felt strongly on the archipelago as large areas were conveyed to the Native corporations. Federal management of the National Forest lands on Afognak was transferred to Native Corporation ownership with passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980, and the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge lost control of 310000 acres (1,254.5 km²) of prime bear habitat (more than 17 percent of refuge lands).

In 1975, construction of a logging road began on Afognak Island, and timber harvesting began in 1977. In 1979, work began on an environmental impact statement for the Terror Lake hydroelectric project on Kodiak Island. That project included an earthen dam on Terror Lake with Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge and a 6 miles (9.7 km)–long tunnel through a mountain ridge to a penstock and powerhouse in the Kizhuyak River drainage. The hydro project was the first significant invasion of inland bear habitat on Kodiak Island. To address the opposition encountered from the public and agencies, a mitigation settlement was negotiated in 1981 which included brown bear research and establishment of the Kodiak Brown Bear Trust. The hydroelectric project was completed in 1985. Human alteration of bear habitat on Kodiak and Afognak islands spurred renewed interest and funding for bear research on the archipelago, resulting in a surge of baseline and applied bear research on Kodiak through the 1980s and 1990s.

Bears were not directly harmed by the Exxon Valdez
Exxon Valdez
Oriental Nicety, formerly Exxon Valdez, Exxon Mediterranean, SeaRiver Mediterranean, S/R Mediterranean, Mediterranean, and Dong Fang Ocean is an oil tanker that gained notoriety after running aground in Prince William Sound spilling hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil in Alaska...

 oil spill in 1989, although some were displaced from traditional feeding and traveling areas by cleanup crews. No one was injured by a bear, and no Kodiak bears were killed. To mitigate the adverse impacts of the spill, Exxon reached a settlement with the state and federal governments. Paradoxically, the impacts of the oil spill and the subsequent cleanup and settlement proved to be beneficial to bears on Kodiak. Bear-safety training exposed thousands of workers to factual information about bears, and money from the settlement fund was used for funding land acquisitions. By the close of the 20th century, over 80 percent of the refuge lands that had been lost as a result of ANCSA and ANILCA were reinstated into the refuge, either through direct purchase or by means of conservation easements. Lands were also purchased in America, westtown, and Shuyak island
Shuyak Island
Shuyak Island is an island in the northern part of the Kodiak Archipelago in the state of Alaska, USA. It is located just north of Afognak Island, separated from it by the narrow Shuyak Strait. The Stevenson Entrance to Cook Inlet separates it from the Barren Islands further north in the archipelago...

s and transferred into state ownership. The Kodiak Brown Bear Trust coordinated a coalition of sportsmen and other wildlife conservation groups from around the nation to lobby for use of settlement funds to acquire Kodiak lands. The groups also directly contributed funding to protect small parcels of important bear habitat around the islands.

Kodiak Bear Plan



In 2001, a Citizens Advisory Committee was established to work closely with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, with the cooperation of Kodiak NWR, to develop a management plan addressing several problems that affect bears, including hunting, habitat, and viewing. The resulting Kodiak Archipelago Bear Conservation and Management Plan was crafted over several months by representatives from 12 diverse user groups, which, after hearing from a variety of experts from agencies and receiving extensive public input, developed more than 270 recommendations for managing and conserving Kodiak bears. Despite the diversity of viewpoints expressed by members of the group, all of the recommendations were by consensus .

The underlying themes of the recommendations were continued conservation of the bear population at its current level, increased education programs to teach people how to live with bears on Kodiak, and protection of bear habitat with allowances for continued human use of the Archipelago. Although the group's role is merely advisory, government management agencies expressed a commitment to implement all of the regulations that were feasible and within their legal jurisdictions.

Genetic diversity and endangerment


The brown bear is listed as LR/lc (Lower Risk Least Concern), and it is not listed as an endangered species
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

 by the endangered species program
Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 is one of the dozens of United States environmental laws passed in the 1970s. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973, it was designed to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as a "consequence of economic growth and...

 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service
United States Fish and Wildlife Service
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is a federal government agency within the United States Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats...

.

Hunt management


Kodiak bear research and habitat protection is done cooperatively by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Bear hunting is managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and hunting regulations are established by the Alaska Board of Game. There is currently a finely tuned management system that distributes hunters in 32 different areas during two seasons (spring: April 1 – May 15, and fall: October 25 – November 30). Each year about 4,500 people apply for the 496 permits offered for Kodiak bear hunts (two-thirds to Alaska residents, one-third to nonresidents). 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. All hunters must come into the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) office in Kodiak prior to going into the field for a brief orientation and must check out before they leave the island. Every bear that is legally killed on the Archipelago must be inspected by an Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist before it can be taken from the islands. Pelts receive a stamp from an ADF&G officer if the hunter and guide provide proper documentation to prove licensing. Pelts can not be transported or legally preserved or sold without the official stamp. Hunting laws are strictly enforced by both the ADF&G officers who often have the full support of the local community. Illegal hunting and fishing is frowned upon by the community which maintains a healthy respect for the island's environmental laws as well. Stiff penalties accompany illegal hunting and fishing. The island's remote location makes trafficking in illegal pelts difficult for would-be poachers.

Since statehood, the reported number of Kodiak bears killed by hunters has ranged from 77 (1968–69) to 206 (1965–66). From 2000–2006, an average of 173 Kodiak bears were killed by hunters each year (118 during the fall season and 55 in the spring season). Over 75 percent of those were males. An additional nine bears were reported killed annually in defense of life or property during the same time period. There has been an increasing number and percentage of large, trophy-sized bears (total skull size at least 28”) killed by hunters in recent years. In the 1970s, only 2.5 percent of the bears killed on Kodiak were trophy-sized; in the 1990s and 2000s the proportion increased to almost 9 percent.

Bear viewing



In the past 20 years bear viewing has become increasing popular on Kodiak and other parts of Alaska. The most accessible bear viewing location on Kodiak, Frazer River, had over 1,100 people come in 2007. Visitor numbers have been increasing at about 10 percent annually and there are plans for development of additional bear viewing areas on Kodiak. There are also other bear viewing opportunities through air-taxi, charter boat, remote lodge and trekking operations on the Archipelago.

Although bear viewing is often considered a “non-consumptive” use, it can have serious impacts on bear populations if it is not conducted properly. Most viewing occurs at places where bears congregate because of feeding opportunities that are critical to their survival. If some bears avoid these areas because people are there, those bears may not get the fat and protein they need to make it through the upcoming winter. Consequently unmanaged bear viewing could impact several bears, especially productive sows with cubs.

Often bear viewing and bear hunting are considered incompatible. Even if the bear population is healthy and bear hunting is sustainable, ethical questions arise especially if hunting occurs near viewing areas and either during or soon after the viewing season. Many feel that it is not fair to encourage bears to be close to people during the summer only to allow them to be shot in the fall. The Kodiak bear plan recognized bear hunting as a legitimate, traditional, and biologically justifiable activity. It recommended that agencies find ways to make bear hunting and bear viewing compatible on the Archipelago.