If you are out on a long hike or camping you’re probably hoping you don’t run into any bears. For some hunters, it’s the opposite and they purposely go out looking for bears. Polar bears are the largest bear species but not by much, brown bears, which include Kodiak bears are almost as big. Kodiak bears are a subspecies of the brown bear and only live on the Kodiak Archipelago of Alaska. It is hard to imagine how big these bears can get. Let’s take a look at the largest Kodiak bear ever recorded.
What is a Kodiak Bear?
Kodiak bears are a subspecies of brown bears. There are eight species of bears:
- Brown bears (Kodiak bears and Grizzly bears)
- Polar bears
- American black bears
- Asiatic black bears (Moon bears)
- Spectacled bears (Andean bears)
- Sloth bears
- Sun bears
- Giant Pandas
These bears have been isolated from other populations for 12,000 years, so they really are a unique species. There are around 3,500 Kodiak bears alive, which is a healthy population. Kodiak bears have dense brown fur, powerful legs and sharp claws. You can tell the difference between a black bear and Kodiak by the hump on their back. They can rear-up on their back legs and stand up, with the largest reaching 10 feet tall. Think about that, your average ceiling is 8 feet tall so it is well beyond that! The males can weigh 1,500 lbs or more with the females weighing a bit less.
How do Kodiak Bears Compare to Grizzly bears?
Kodiak bears are the largest of the brown bears, with polar bears being a little larger than Kodiaks. There has been some debate as to how to categorize bears but it seems most have landed on there being two subspecies of brown bears, Kodiak and Grizzly. In North America the bears that live along the coast like Washington state and California are called “brown bears” or “coastal brown bears” and the bears that are more on the interior like Montana, Idaho and in Yellowstone are called Grizzlies. Kodiak bears are larger than brown bears and Grizzlies.
Where is Kodiak Island, Alaska?
Kodiak Island is located south of the mainland of Alaska. There is a 1.9 million acre wildlife refuge on the island that includes the only Kodiak bear population. President Roosevelt established the refuge with the main purpose of providing a safe home to the Kodiak bears. The only other native mammals on the island are river otters, bats, red foxes, tundra voles and short-tailed weasels. Other mammals have been introduced over the years. The coasts of the island include visits from harbor seals, sea otters, porpoises and a variety of whales.
The Largest Kodiak Bear Ever Recorded
The largest Kodiak Bear ever recorded was a captive bear named Clyde. He was a Kodiak bear that lived at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, North Dakota. His weight in June of 1987 was 2130 lbs.! Bears in captivity typically weigh more than wild bears so that gives him the edge. He was the main attraction at the zoo for years and had a companion bear, named Bonnie. He was reportedly 9 feet tall and lived to be 22 years old.
How big was “Bart the Bear” from movies like The Bear, White Fang and Legends of the Fall?
Bart the Bear was a famous Kodiak bear that was trained to be an animal actor. His trainers were Doug and Lynn Sues that worked with Bart on several films including the star role in The Bear. Bart was born in captivity at the Baltimore zoo in 1977 and lived until the year 2000. Seeing a picture of Bart standing next to his trainer is an impressive comparison to his size. Bart was actually taller than Clyde, the record holder as the largest Kodiak bear, but he was nowhere close to Clyde’s weight. Bart only weighed a lean 1,500 lbs, which is more than your average Kodiak bear!
Guinness World Record for “Largest Bear”
Guinness gave the record to a whole species of bear, not a specific bear. The “Largest Bear” record goes to polar bears! Polar bears live in Arctic Canada, Russia, and Greenland but most live north of the Arctic circle. Polar bears weigh between 880–1,320 lb and are 7 ft 10 in–8 ft 6 in. Guinness declares the Polar bear as the largest bear but gives a shout out to the Kodiak bear as comparably heavy but not quite as long as the polar bear.
The Largest Polar Bear Ever Recorded
Let’s compare the largest Kodiak ever to the largest polar bear ever! The largest polar bear ever was 2,209 pounds! That is 79 pounds heavier than Clyde, the largest Kodiak bear. This polar bear was a wild bear found in the Kotzebue Sound, Alaska in 1960. This was before wildlife conservation was more common so this bear was unfortunately shot, killed and mounted. He was an impressive 11 feet 1 inch tall, taller than Clyde and Bart. Your average polar bear is around 8 feet tall.
Can You Hunt Kodiak Bears?
The Kodiak bear population is strictly regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Due to the continuing healthy population of Kodiak bears, each year about 180 Kodiak bears are killed during the hunting season each year. You must either be a resident of Alaska or hire a professional guide (at the cost of $10,000-$21,000) to hunt. There are only 496 bear permits issued each year and more than 5,000 people apply.
Can You Hunt Polar Bears?
Yes, but with restrictions. Alaskan natives are allowed to hunt polar bears, but otherwise it is illegal in the United States. It is still legal in Canada. Polar bears are a vulnerable species and highly protected. The IUCN has the polar bear officially listed as “Vulnerable”, but the last listed date of assessment was August of 2015. Conservationists are worried about the effect of climate change on the polar bears habitat and they are hoping to get a new assessment to see how things have changed in the last seven years.
Who Would Win the Fight of Kodiak Bear vs Polar Bear?
We may never know because polar bears do not live on the Kodiak islands. Check out this article that explains the differences between these two massive bears!