KODIAK BEAR - Origin, characteristics and photos!

Kodiak bear: find out what this animal is like, its physical characteristics, character, behavior, etc. The kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), also known as...

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The kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), also known as the Alaskan giant bear, is a subspecies of brown bear native to Kodiak Island and other coastal locations from southern Alaska. These mammals stand out for their immense size and remarkable robustness, being one of the largest land mammals in the world, along with the polar bear.

If you want to know more about this giant mammal, we invite you to continue reading this PlanèteAnimal sheet, where we will tell you about the origin, diet and reproduction of the bear Kodiak, among other features. Happy reading!


  • America
  • United States

Origin of the kodiak bear

As mentioned above, the kodiak bear is a subspecies of the brown bear (Ursus arctos), a species of the family Ursidae that inhabits Eurasia and North America and counts more than 16 currently recognized subspecies. Specifically, Kodiak bears are native to southern Alaska and the underlying regions, such as Kodiak Island.

Originally, the kodiak bear was described as a new species of bear by American zoological naturalist and taxonomist C.H. Merriam. Its first scientific name was Ursus middendorffi in homage to a great naturalist of B altic origin named Dr. A. Th. Von Middendorff. A few years later, after a detailed taxonomic study, all brown bears native to North America were grouped into a single species: Ursus arctos

Furthermore, several genetic studies have recognized that the kodiak bear is "genetically related" to brown bears in the United States, including those that live on the Alaskan Peninsula, and also to bears browns from Russia. Although no conclusive studies yet exist, due to low genetic diversity, it is believed that Kodiak bears have been isolated for many centuries (at least since the last ice age, which occurred around 12,000 years). Likewise, it is not yet possible to detect immune deficiencies or birth defects derived from inbreeding in this subspecies.

Kodiak bear appearance and anatomy

The Kodiak bear is a giant terrestrial mammal, which can reach a height at the withers of about 1.3 meters. But it can also reach 3 meters on two legs, that is to say when it acquires a bipedal position. It is also distinguished by its great strength, with females usually weighing around 200 kg, while males can exceed 300 kg in body weight.Male kodiak bears weighing over 600 kg have been recorded in the wild, and an individual nicknamed "Clyde" , which lived in the North Dakota Zoo, has been recorded weighing over 950 kg.

Due to the adverse climatic conditions it faces, the Kodiak bear stores 50% of its body weight in fat. However, in pregnant females, this figure exceeds 60%, since they need a large reserve of energy to survive and nurse their young. Besides their immense size, another striking feature of kodiak bears is their dense fur which is perfectly adapted to the climate of their natural habitat. When it comes to their coat colors, kodiak bears typically exhibit shades ranging from blond and orange to dark brown. During their first years of life, cubs usually wear a white "birth ring" around their neck.

These giant Alaskan bears also have large, very sharp and retractable claws which are essential to them in the event of a fall and which also help them to defend themselves against possible attacks or territorial fights against other males .

Kodiak Bear Behavior

Kodiak bears often maintain a solitary lifestyle in their habitat, only meeting during breeding season and potential territorial disputes. Also, because they have a relatively small foraging range, since they mostly come to areas where salmon spawn, it is common to see groups of kodiak bears along Alaskan waterways and from Kodiak Island. It is believed that this type of "opportune tolerance" may be an adaptive behavior, since by minimizing the fights for the territory in these circumstances, they manage to maintain a better diet and, therefore, to remain he althy and strong to survive. reproduce and give continuity to the population.

In terms of food, kodiak bears are omnivorous animals, whose diet ranges from Alaskan grasses, roots and berries to Pacific salmon and medium to large mammals like seals, elk and deer.They may also end up consuming algae and invertebrates that accumulate on beaches after the windiest seasons. With the advance of man on its habitat, mainly on Kodiak Island, certain opportunistic habits have been observed in this subspecies. When food becomes scarce, kodiak bears living near cities or towns may approach urban areas to take advantage of food waste.

Bears do not experience true hibernation like other hibernating animals such as groundhogs, hedgehogs and squirrels. For these large and hardy mammals, hibernation itself would involve an enormous expenditure of energy to stabilize their body temperature with the onset of spring. But since this metabolic cost would be unsustainable for the animal, even putting its survival at risk, kodiak bears do not hibernate, but experience a kind of winter sleep. Although these are similar metabolic processes, during winter sleep the bear's body temperature drops only a few degrees, allowing the animal to sleep for long periods in its cave, thus saving a lot of energy during the winter.

Reproduction of Kodiak Bear

In general, all brown bear subspecies, including the kodiak bear, are monogamous and loyal to their mates. In each mating season, each individual meets their regular partner, until one of them dies. Moreover, they can go several seasons without mating after the death of their usual partner, until they feel ready to accept a new partner.

The kodiak bear's breeding season is between May and June, with the arrival of spring in the northern hemisphere. After mating, pairs usually stay together for a few weeks, using this time to rest and gather a good amount of food. However, females have delayed implantation, which means that fertilized eggs attach to the uterine wall and develop several months after mating, usually in the fall.

Like most mammals, Kodiak bears are viviparous animals, which means that fertilization and the development of the young take place in the womb of the mother. Cubs are usually born at the end of winter, during the months of January and March, in the same burrow where their mother spent her winter sleep. Each female usually gives birth to 2 to 4 young at each birth, which weigh almost 500 grams and will remain with their parents until they are three years old, although they do not reach sexual maturity until after their 5th birthday.

Kodiak bears have the highest cub mortality rate among brown bear subspecies, likely due to the environmental conditions of their habitat and the predatory behavior of males over cubs. This is one of the main factors hindering the expansion of its species, as well as "sport" hunting.

Kodiak Bear Conservation Status

Given the complex conditions of its habitat and its position in the food chain, the kodiak bear has no natural predators. As mentioned, the males of this subspecies may themselves become the predators of the cubs due to disputes over territory, but aside from this behavior, the only concrete threats to the survival of kodiak bears are hunting and deforestation. . “Sport” hunting is unfortunately permitted on a regulated basis in Alaska Territory. This is why the creation of national parks is now essential for the conservation of many indigenous species, including the Kodiak bear, since hunting is prohibited in these protected areas.

Photos of Kodiak Bear

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