Brown bears (Ursus arctos middendorffi) on the Kodiak Archipelago are famous for their large size and seasonal concentrations at salmon streams. Sport hunting of Kodiak bears has been popular since World War II. Their value as captivating subjects to observe or photograph is a more recent development that is increasing rapidly; visitors from around the world come to experience brown bears on Kodiak, adding substantially to Alaska's economy.
An equally important contribution of brown bears is their value as an indicator of ecosystem vitality. Despite high population numbers, Kodiak bears are vulnerable to the environmental effects that have seriously depleted brown bear populations in Europe and parts of North America (Cowan 1972; Servheen 1990). They are long-lived mammals that require large expanses of land to meet biological needs, and their low reproductive rate limits population recovery. Energy development, depletion of salmon resources, and recreational growth are factors that can adversely affect bears and, in doing so, signal a loss of environmental quality affecting many species.
Management of Kodiak brown bears is directed at maintaining current density, distribution, and habitat-use patterns. This goal is challenged by growing levels of commercial and private use throughout the region. An immediate concern is cabin and lodge development on 121,500 ha (300,000 acres), formerly part of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge, that were deeded to Alaska Natives via the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. Much of that Native-conveyed land is coastal or riparian habitat especially important to brown bears during summer and fall. Concurrently, recreational use of the Kodiak refuge is increasing about 10% annually (USFWS 1987). Sport fishing, bear photography, and deer and elk hunting often put bears and humans in direct conflict (Smith et al. 1989).
Timber harvest on Afognak Island, uncertain trends of salmon populations due to natural or human-caused events (e.g., Exxon Valdez oil spill), and hydroelectric development (Smith and Van Daele 1990) could impose additional long-term effects on localized bear populations.
|Title||Kodiak brown bears|
|Authors||Victor G. Barnes, Roger B. Smith, Mark S. Udevitz, J.R. Bellinger|
|Publication Type||Book Chapter|
|Publication Subtype||Book Chapter|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Alaska Biological Science Center|