Kodiak Bear Cub – Ursus Arctos Middendorffi
The Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi), also known as the Kodiak brown bear or the Alaskan grizzly bear, inhabits the islands of the Kodiak Archipelago in the South West of Alaska. Its Alutiiq name is Taquka-aq. It is by far the largest subspecies of brown bearand one of the two largest bears, the other being the polar bear.
Taxonomist C.H. Merriam was first to recognize Kodiak bears as unique and he named the species “Ursus middendorffi” in honor of the celebrated Baltic naturalist Dr. A. Th. von Middendorff. 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. 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, it may be more susceptible to new diseases or parasites than other, more diverse brown bear populations.
Hair colors range from blonde 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.
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 lb) to 315 kg (700 lb) and for males 360 kg (800 lb) to 635 kg (1400 lb). 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 lb) 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 average adult male measures 244 cm (8 ft 0 in) in length and stands 133 cm (4 ft 4 in) tall at the shoulder. A wild male weighing 750 kg (1,650 lb) had a hindfoot measurement of 46 cm (18 in). A large male Kodiak bear stands up to 1.5 m (4.9 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 (9.8 ft). The largest verified size for a captive Kodiak bear was for a specimen that lived at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, North Dakota. Nicknamed “Clyde”, he weighed 966.9 kg (2,132 lb) when he died in June 1987 at the age of 22. According to zoo director Terry Lincoln, Clyde probably weighed close to 1,090 kg (2,400 lb) a year earlier. He still had a fat layer of 9 inches when he died. A mass of 1,500 kg (3,300 lb) was published for this subspecies, but further details were not specified.
They are the largest brown bear subspecies, and are comparable in size to polar bears. 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 skulls. Most North American hunting organizations and management agencies use calipers to measure the length of the skull (back of sagittal crest on the back of the skull to the front tooth) and the width (maximum width between the zygomatic arches — “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.
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