More than 32,000 brown bears call Alaska home! Even though there are technically two subspecies in North America (the grizzly and the Kodiak), all brown bears in Alaska are genetically identical. The difference between Coastal and Grizzly Bears is geographical and diet.
Coastal Brown Bears
As their name suggests, Alaskan coastal brown bears live along the coast where the living is easier and the climate is better. They have a greater amount of animal protein, mainly in the form of fish in their diet and hence get larger.
Grizzly bears are found in inland Alaska, British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington and Montana. Their diet consists mainly of berries, roots, bulbs, rodents, insects and whitebark pine nuts. Grizzlies supplement their diet with moose, elk, mountain goats and sheep. Basically, grizzly bears have to work harder to make a living and because of that, don’t get as large as their coastal cousins.
Kodiak Brown Bears
Since the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago, Kodiak bears have been isolated from the rest of Alaska’s brown bear population on Kodiak, Afongnak and Shuak islands in southwestern Alaska. Kodiak bears have the smallest gene pool of all of the world’s brown bears and a larger bone structure. They have the same basic diet as coastal brown bears and grizzly bears, but these islands have so many salmon that they are larger and these islands can support 40% more bears. Due to the higher population density, Kodiak bears have a more diverse social structure than other bears.
Brown bear hunting in Alaska
In 2007, approximately 1,900 brown bears and grizzly bears were harvested in Alaska. Of that figure, about 700 were taken by Alaska residents and roughly 1,200 (or 67%) were taken by nonresidents. Bear hunting seasons are held in both spring and fall in some areas but only in fall in other areas. It is illegal to kill cubs and females with offspring. Nonresident brown bear hunters are required to have a guide or be accompanied by an Alaska resident who is a relative.
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