Alaska’s Big Five:
Brown bears and grizzly are classified as the same species, with the grizzly considered a subspecies of the brown bear. Brown bears are found along Alaska’s southern coastline, and are larger and live in higher densities than their inland grizzly counterparts. The main advantage to coastal living, is the abundance of salmon as a food source. The thicker vegetation and warmer climate of the southern coast also helps to give the brown bear the size edge.
The Kodiak brown bear is considered a unique subspecies from the brown & grizzly bear. The Kodiaks have been isolated from mainland bears since the last ice age, or 12,000 years ago.
Brown bear cubs are born in January & February, usually as twins, but a litter of 1-4 cubs will occur. Cubs usually emerge from the den in June. Cubs have a survival rate of less than 50%, even with ferociously protective mothers. Cubs will stay with their mother for 2-3 years. The oldest known brown bear female was 39 years old, with the oldest known male at 38. They can reach a weight of up to 1500 pounds.
Bears have an excellent sense of smell, and their eyesight & hearing is similar to humans. They are excellent swimmers, and can run in bursts at 40 mph.
Currently, the Alaska brown bear population is around 32,000. Which is 98% of the population in the United States, and 70% of the total North American population.
Kodiak Island has approximately 3500 bears, which makes for .7 bears per square mile.
By contrast, Alaska has approximately 100,000 black bears living in the state.