Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge
The Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is in the Kodiak Archipelago in the US state of Alaska. It lies mainly on Kodiak Island but partly extends to neighbouring islands. In all it covers 1,990,418 acres (8,054.94 km²). The refuge was established in 1941.
The terrain is mostly mountainous with deep fiords and river valleys carved by glaciers, which, as they melt on their downward journey, feed into numerous rivers, streams, lakes and bogs. Many areas in the refuge are densely forested with Sitka spruce, one of the largest tree species in the world. Grasslands and shrub habitats, with sedges, colourful wildflowers and berries, occur at higher elevations.
The refuge provides a habitat for a large range of wildlife. In particular, it is a spawning ground for Pacific Ocean salmon and supplies a large part of the commercial market. Birds, too, abound, especially the bald eagle and numerous seabirds. The refuge has six native species of mammals including red fox, river otter, ermine, little brown bat and tundra vole.
However it is most famous for its Kodiak brown bears. These are a distinct sub-species from the mainland brown bears. They have been isolated on the archipelago since the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago. The Kodiak bear is the largest land carnivore in the world. The rich variety of vegetation, salmon and berries provides an ideal diet for them. From mid-July to mid-September the bears congregate at streams to gorge themselves on spawning salmon. The runs are so heavy that the bears often become selective, and many feast only on females and then eat only the belly portion containing the eggs.