Spot the largest Kodiak bear ever

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key point

  • Kodiak bears are a subspecies of brown bears.
  • There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears alive, a healthy population.
  • Kodiak bears have been isolated from other bear populations for 12,000 years, so they are truly a unique species.

If you're going on a long hike or camping, you probably hope you don't encounter any bears. For some hunters, the opposite is true and they go out on purpose to find bears. Hunting for Kodiak bears is restricted and tightly controlled.

While Kodiak populations appear to be stable, there are fears that their numbers will dwindle as more and more individuals enter their range.

Polar bears are the largest bear species, but they are not numerous, and brown bears, including Kodiak bears, are almost as big.

The Kodiak bear is a subspecies of the brown bear that lives only on the Kodiak Islands in Alaska. It's hard to imagine how big these bears can grow. Let's take a look at the largest Kodiak bear ever.

What is a Kodiak bear?

Kodiak vs. Grizzlies
The Kodiak bear is the largest subspecies of the brown bear.

© Bray

Kodiak bears are a subspecies of brown bears. There are eight types of bears:

  • Brown bears (Kodiak and grizzly)
  • polar bear
  • american black bear
  • Asiatic black bear (moon bear)
  • Spectacled bear (Andean bear)
  • sloth bear
  • sun bear
  • giant panda

Kodiak bears have been isolated from other bear populations for 12,000 years, so they are truly a unique species. There are about 3,500 Kodiak bears alive, a healthy population. Kodiak bears have thick brown fur, powerful legs, and sharp claws. You can tell the difference between a black bear and a Kodiak bear by the hump on their back.

They can stand on their hind legs and stand upright, reaching a maximum height of 10 feet. Come to think of it, your average ceiling is 8 feet high, so it's way beyond that! Males can weigh 1,500 pounds or more, while females are slightly lighter.

How rare are Kodiak bear sightings?

Kodiak bears are a subspecies of brown bears that are similar in appearance to grizzly bears. They are only found in the Kodiak Islands in Alaska. While this subspecies of bear is not usually found on the mainland, they are relatively common on islands.

In that sense, sightings of Kodiak bears are not uncommon, however, sightings are largely dependent on human activity. This subspecies of brown bear is very wary of humans and will avoid contact, and while they don't usually show signs of aggression, it's important to be cautious and respectful.

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Although there is no exact number of Kodiak bear sightings that occur each year, as this largely depends on many factors such as location, time of year, and the level of human activity in the area. In fact, only 496 bear permits are available during certain hunting seasons.

It's also worth noting that while some people may report sightings of Kodiak bears, not all of these sightings are accurate or verified. Additionally, some bear encounters may not be reported at all.

How do the Kodiaks compare to the Grizzlies?

Kodiak vs Grizzlies
Kodiak bears are bigger than grizzlies.


Kodiak bears are the largest brown bears, and polar bears are slightly larger than Kodiak bears. There is some debate about how bears are classified, but most seem to agree that brown bears have two subspecies, the Kodiak and the grizzly.

In North America, bears that live in coastal areas such as Washington state and California are called "brown bears" or "coastal brown bears," while more inland areas such as Montana, Idaho and Yellowstone Park Bears are called grizzlies. Kodiak bears are larger than brown and grizzly bears.

Where is Kodiak Island in Alaska?

Kodiak Island is located in southern Alaska. The island is home to a 1.9 million-acre wildlife sanctuary, which includes the only Kodiak bear population. President Roosevelt's main purpose in establishing the sanctuary was to provide a safe home for Kodiak bears.

What other animals live on Kodiak Island?

The only other native mammals on the island are otters, bats, red foxes, tundra voles and bob-tailed weasels. Other mammals have also been introduced over the years. These include beavers, caribou, elk, mink, goats, red squirrels, Sitka mule deer and snow hares.

The island's shores include the presence of harbor seals, sea otters, porpoises and a variety of whales.

Biggest Kodiak ever

The largest Kodiak bear ever recorded was a captive bear named Clyde. He is a Kodiak bear that lives at the Dakota Zoo in Bismarck, North Dakota. His weight in June 1987 was 2130 lbs! Captive bears are usually heavier than wild bears, which gives him an advantage.

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For years, he's been the main character at the zoo, along with a bear companion named Bonnie. He was reportedly 9 feet tall and lived to be 22. Of course, there may be larger Kodiak bears in the wild, but it's hard to find them and measure them.

How big was "Bart the Bear" in movies like The Bear, White Fang , and The Fallen ?

Bart the Bear is a famous Kodiak bear who was trained to be an animal actor. His coaches were Doug and Lynn Sues, and they worked with Bart on several films, including a starring role in The Bear . Bart was born at the Baltimore Zoo in 1977 and lived until 2000.

Seeing pictures of Bart standing next to his trainer is impressive compared to his size. Bart is actually taller than Clyde, who holds the record for the largest Kodiak bear, but he weighs nowhere near Clyde. At only 1,500 pounds, Bart is heavier than the average Kodiak bear!

"Biggest Bear" Guinness World Records

The Guinness Book of World Records is awarded to an entire category of bears, not a specific bear. The "largest bear" record belongs to a polar bear! Polar bears live in Arctic Canada, Russia and Greenland, but most live north of the Arctic Circle. Polar bears weigh between 880 and 1,320 pounds and stand between 7 feet 10 inches and 8 feet 6 inches tall. The Guinness Book of World Records declares the polar bear the largest bear, but the Kodiak bears its fair share of praise, but not as long as a polar bear.

largest polar bear ever

12 Christmas animals from around the world - polar bears
The largest polar bear ever recorded weighed 2,209 pounds! It is also very tall at 11 feet 1 inch.

©Vaclav Sebek/

Let's compare the largest Kodiak ever made to the largest polar bear ever! The largest polar bear ever recorded weighed 2,209 pounds! That's 79 pounds heavier than the largest Kodiak bear, Clyde. This polar bear was a wild bear discovered in Kotzebue Sound, Alaska in 1960.

This was before wildlife conservation was more common, so this bear was unfortunately shot, killed and put on a horse. At 11 feet 1 inch, he was taller than Clyde and Bart.

The average polar bear is about 8 feet tall.

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Can you hunt a Kodiak bear?

Kodiak bear hunting is strictly regulated and only 496 permits are issued each year.

© Hillebrand, Steve – Public domain of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Kodiak bear population is strictly regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. As Kodiak populations continue to be healthy, approximately 180 Kodiak bears are killed each year during the hunting season. You must be an Alaska resident or hire a professional guide ($10,000 to $21,000) to hunt. Only 496 bear keeping certificates are issued each year, but more than 5,000 people apply.

Can you hunt polar bears?

do bears have tails
Polar bear hunting is illegal in North America. However, Alaska Natives are the only group allowed to hunt these top predators

© Mario_Hoppmann/

Yes, but with limitations. Alaska natives are allowed to hunt polar bears, but otherwise, it's illegal in the United States. It is still legal in Canada. Polar bears are a vulnerable species and are highly protected. The IUCN has officially listed polar bears as "vulnerable," but was last assessed for listing in August 2015.

Conservationists, concerned about the impact of climate change on polar bear habitat, want new assessments of how conditions have changed over the past seven years.

Kodiak vs Polar Bear? Who will win the battle?

polar bear vs kodiak bear
What would happen if a polar bear fought a Kodiak bear? It's sure to be a close fight!


We may never know because polar bears don't live on the Kodiak Islands. Check out this article explaining the differences between these two giant bears!

How long can a Kodiak bear live?

grizzly bear
Kodiak bears can live over 40 years in captivity


Members of this species live considerably longer than other top predators such as wolves, which can live up to 16 years, cougars, or wolverines, who can live up to 13 years.

Kodiak bears can live 20 or even 25 years, just like their other bear relatives. Giant bears can even live to be 30 years old, and some bears can live more than 40 years in human care.


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More from AZ Animals

featured image

Kodiak vs Grizzlies
Kodiak bears live only on the islands of the Kodiak archipelago. This location is just below the Arctic Circle and has a subarctic climate.

© Bray

about the author

I'm a wildlife conservation writer and reporter who raises awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share our planet. I graduated from the University of Minnesota Morris with a degree in Elementary Education, and I am a former teacher. When I'm not writing, I enjoy going to the kids' soccer games, watching movies, working on DIY projects, and running with Tango, our giant Labrador.

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