Tag Archives: kodiak

The Brown Bear

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.

 


Closing a fishery

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Collecting Pacific cod samples; Photo in Public Domain, credit to NOAA

For the first time, the federal government has closed the cod fishery in the Gulf of Alaska for the 2020 season.  The reason: Low stock.

The Blob, a marine heatwave that hit the Gulf in 2014 is taking the blunt of the blame.  Ocean temperatures rose 4-5 degrees, with some areas of the Gulf rising by 7 degrees.  The increase in water temperature killed off young cod.

Cod usually return to the fishery after three years or more.  They can live up to 14 years, and tend to reach a weight of 12 pounds.

After the heatwave, cod numbers crashed from 113,830 metric tons in 2014 to 46,080 in 2017.  The numbers have been dropping ever since.

The closing will have a huge effect on the winter economies of places like Homer and Kodiak.  Prior to The Blob, the fishery was a $50 million industry for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

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“The Blob” in 2014 and 2019; Image credit: NOAA

Unfortunately, the blob’s sequel looks to be heading back to Alaskan waters.  As of September 2019, the water temp of Blob 2 was only two degrees shy of the original.


Kodiak after Novarupta

Kodiak, Alaska in 1912


Photo courtesy of Katmai National Park & Preserve

The Alaskan community of Kodiak one day after the eruption of Novarupta in 1912. Over a foot of ash fell on the town, collapsing roofs and engulfing the area in near total darkness.