Interactive Bear Quiz

Kodiak bears are the biggest bear in the world.

False True

Since we are Kodiak bear biologists, we consider this true- however, in reality it may be a draw with polar bears. The largest bears are measured using three primary criteria: weight, overall length, and skull size.

Adult male Kodiak bears and adult male polar bears reach similar weights, though exact numbers are hard to come by due to the logistics and difficulties of weighing an animal close to a ton in a remote location. The largest male Kodiak bear weighed approximately 1,500 pounds, and this is an often-quoted figure for the largest adult male polar bear as well. We will call this a draw.
In terms of overall length, polar bears likely have a slight edge over an equivalent Kodiak bear because they tend to be more slender and streamlined to aid with their swimming. Kodiak bears are more stocky and robust.

With skull sizes (length + width), Kodiak bears are the clear winners. The largest (living) bears ever recorded have been Kodiak bears, and they even give the largest extinct bears (cave bears and short-faced bears) a run for their money in terms of skull size. The largest polar bear? It comes up on #20 on the list dominated by Kodiaks…

Correct

Kodiak bears are the largest terrestrial omnivore in the world.

False True

True. A large male can stand over 10’ tall on its hind legs, 5’ at the shoulder when on all four legs, and weigh as much as 1,500 pounds before hibernation. Adult females are smaller, but can still weigh up to 900 pounds before hibernation.

Polar bears are considered marine mammals because the majority of their lives are spent on sea ice, and thus are excluded from this ranking. Kodiak bears can also be considered the largest terrestrial carnivore in terms of the Order Carnivora (includes wolves, tigers, hyenas, weasels, etc.).

Correct

Kodiak bears hibernate like ground squirrels.

False True

False. Kodiak bears do hibernate, but not to the same depth as ground squirrels (for instance, if you were to attempt to juggle a Kodiak bear while it is hibernating it would wake up, and thus is not a recommended activity).

Our bears hibernate up to eight months, entering a den in late October. While hibernating, bears do not eat, drink, defecate, or urinate, and their heart rates drop significantly (down to about 8 – 10 beats per minute). Males emerge from their den in April, while females with cubs emerge later. These maternal females can lose at least 30% of their body weight during hibernation. However, in spite of all these stresses of hibernation, the bears suffer no heart disease, kidney failure, or bone loss!

Correct

Bear cubs are born during hibernation.

False True

True. Bear cubs are born in the den in January. At birth they weigh about a pound, and have very little hair. They begin suckling almost immediately after birth, and by the time they emerge from the den with their mother they will weigh ~15-20 pounds. We call these spring cubs “COY,” for Cub(s) Of the Year. Bear cubs will stay with their mother for 2-3 years, before being “kicked out” to become independent bears.

Correct

Bears can't run downhill.

False True

False. Contrary to a popular myth, bears can run downhill. Though their large and lumbering size may belie it, bears can be extremely dexterous and nimble. They are capable of scrambling up sheer rock faces, charging through the thickest tangle of brush, diving several yards down to the bottom of Karluk Lake to pick salmon off the lakebed, and running uphill (and downhill) at 35 mph. They can also learn to use their paws or a single claw to open various types of bear-resistant containers for food or trash…

Correct

Bears have good eyesight.

False True

True. Contrary to another common myth, bears are not nearsighted. The eyesight of an average bear is comparable or better than that of a perfect human’s 20/20 vision. Their hearing is comparable to that of a dog, while their sense of smell is phenomenally acute (at least 3-4 times better than a bloodhound).

Correct

Kodiak bears are grizzly bears.

False True

False. Remember, our Kodiak bears are unique! Kodiak bears (Ursus arctos middendorffi) are a recognized subspecies of brown bear (Ursus arctos). Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) are another subspecies of brown bears, but are smaller, live in interior areas of North America, and generally have a more carnivorous (meat-eating) diet. Another defining characteristic of grizzly bears is that they are less tolerant of each other, which is a big reason why they are not observed congregating along salmon streams like our Kodiak bears.

Correct

Bears do not fiercely defend a distinct territory.

False True

True. While bears at times fiercely defend their personal space, they do not establish a set territory like a wolf. Instead, bears have a “home range” which encompasses a traditional area that they rarely venture from. Because of the abundance and variety of food sources available, Kodiak bears have some of the smallest home ranges of any brown bear subspecies in the world.

In many cases around Karluk Lake, the home range of a female bear will be a single drainage, and her female offspring will learn to use this same home range. In fact, it is highly likely you will see several generations of the same bear family during your visit to the Kodiak Brown Bear Center!

Correct

Bears are unpredictable.

False True

False. A bear may seem unpredictable at first, but after closer observation you will see that bears have a series of vocalizations and body language they use to communicate comfort, reassurance, concern, and aggression. This complex suite of communications and its resulting social structure allows bears to avoid nasty fights while congregating in the large numbers along salmon streams you will see on your upcoming visit to the Kodiak Brown Bear Center.

Correct

Bears are related to pigs.

False True

False. Even though males are called “boars” and females are called “sows,” bears are not closely related to pigs. The bear family (Ursidae) is most closely related to the carnivore families of raccoons (Procyonidae), sea lions (Otariidae), seals (Phocidae), dogs (Canidae), and weasels (Mustelidae).

Correct

Bears eat more than just salmon.

False True

True! While salmon is a critical component to the diet of some bears on Kodiak, even the bears that eat “a lot” of fish rely on other food resources, because salmon are actually only available for a short time out of the year. Other equally important foods are emergent vegetation in the spring, kelp and other marine detritus throughout the year, sedges and roots, with berries in the fall. Kodiak represents a paradise for bears because of all the foods available at various times through the year, and its opportunities to have a diverse diet. In fact, nutritional ecology studies have found that some bears are completely vegetarian!

Correct