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.
Since we’re in the middle of Katmai Week here between The Circles, I wanted to share this photo, although probably not for the reasons many would think.
The pic above was taken of two fishermen in Katmai National Park. I’ve found myself in a similar situation while fishing Alaska’s rivers. Once was with my Dad, which was more nerve-wracking than when I was solo! Forget the bear, I was worried about how my Dad would react.
What I love about this picture, from all my time in Alaska, is that the bear actually has little to no interest in the fishermen. The bear simply has salmon on its mind. We don’t have two fishermen in the picture, but three.
If given half the chance, man can live with wildlife. The two species above, can coexist. Katmai NP&P is a prime example of that. I would hope that is the lesson the photograph has to give. After all, Alaska would be a much poorer place without her bears.
The photo was taken in July by Robert Hawthorne, a photographer out of Bozeman, Montana. His link is below:
Voting for the Fattest Bear of Katmai continues over at the Katmai National Park & Preserve Facebook page.
In round one, fan fave Otis went down to Lefty, in an upset. Divot, Grazer and #909 also moved into the second round. There is some large competition waiting for them, as Wide-Body #747, Holly, Chunk and #503 had first round byes, and could continue hoarding calories, as they watched their fellow bears compete.
Katmai National Park has been holding its annual Fat Bear Week over the past few days.
Complete with a March Madness type bracket, the park has been posting before and after pictures of various bears, in a head to head, or possibly, belly to belly, face off.
Highlighting how much weight brown bears need to put on over the summer to get through hibernation, Katmai has found a unique way to raise public awareness.
Two bears now go belly to belly for the 2018 title of Fattest Bear of Katmai.
First we have Bear #409, also known as Beadnose. Beadnose comes into the championship round having beat out three time champion Otis.
Challenging Beadnose is Bear #747. This Bear carries a lot of weight, but no nickname. Although, I expect that will change next spring. I have to admit, 747 is appropriate, just look at that wide body.
I believe voting closes today at 3 pm Alaska time on the Katmai Facebook page.
A curious brown bear approached a visitor in Katmai National Park, and pawed at the visitor’s pant leg recently. That bear then wandered off. In a second incident, a brown bear was being chased by another brown bear through Brooks Camp, and a worker at Brooks Lodge was “pawed”. Neither bear, nor person was injured in the pawings.
Katmai draws a large concentration of brown bears once the salmon start to run, which also brings the visitors to view the fishing bears. Some interaction would be expected, but what is really unusual about these events, is that the last time a bear made physical contact with a human in Katmai was 20 years ago. That really is a phenomenal safety record, especially with the unpredictability of both species.
Park Rangers believe the main cause of the interactions, is due to the high number of subadult bears at Brooks River this year. A subadult is a bear between 2.5 and 5 years old. They naturally like to chase each other, and are trying to feel out their place in the hierarchy. The last time Katmai had a similar number of subadult brown bears, was roughly 20 years ago.
Now that the salmon are starting to return to Brooks River, the bears are coming into Brooks Falls to fatten up. The Katmai Bear Cam is getting to be a little more interesting of late too.
There are approximately 2200 brown bears within the boundaries of Katmai National Park & Preserve at any given time. The Alaska Peninsula has more bears as residents than people. Most of the bears that come to Brooks Falls are numbered, as a way to keep track of them. Many of the regular bears receive names from the rangers and biologists that study them.
The oldest known bear in the park, is Bear #410, she carries the nickname “Four-Ton”. A 29 year old female. Four-Ton is one of the largest females in the park. When the salmon are running, 410 is fishing, and she doesn’t care who is around. She often fishes in the midst of large males, and she doesn’t seem to be bothered by people either.
For fans of the Bear Cam, Bear #480 is a favorite. Fondly known as “Otis”, 480 is the oldest known male bear in the park at 22 years old. Otis just recently returned to the falls, and was seen catching a nice salmon and taking it back to his island to eat in peace. He is known for having the most efficient salmon catching technique of the Brooks Falls regulars.
The first spring cubs of the year have shown up for fishing lessons.
There’s a new bear in town, and he has been saddled with the number 503. Look at those claws.
Bear #634 has also returned to Brooks River. Known as “Popeye”, 634 is an aggressive bear, and is known to steal fish from smaller bears.
It should be noted, that 2018 is the 100th Anniversary of Katmai National Park. Happy birthday!