Kodiak Island, Alaska, is home to a wide variety of fish and wildlife. The waters of Kodiak support all five species of Pacific salmon as well as many other fish such as halibut, cod, and rockfish, along with an array of other ocean-dwelling delicacies.
Like many other areas of Alaska, Kodiak has an abundance of many different species of birds and wildlife, including, the famous Kodiak brown bear, bald eagle, black-tailed deer, river otter, reindeer, elk, buffalo, mountain goats, snowshoe hare, fox, beaver, and others.
Something that is quite surprising to people though, is that out of all the different critters that call Kodiak home, there are only six indigenous land-dwelling mammals that are native to the island, all the others have been introduced over the years. This is a popular trivia question that tourists to Kodiak are often asked, so pay close attention in case you get quizzed when you come to visit.
#1 – The Kodiak Brown Bear
The Kodiak brown bear is well-known as the largest bear in the world and like the grizzly bear, is a unique subspecies of the coastal brown bear. Kodiak bears live exclusively on the chain of islands of the Kodiak Archipelago and has been isolated from the bears of the mainland of Alaska for around 12,000 years.
#2 – The Red Fox
Like the Kodiak bear, the Kodiak red fox is also a separate subspecies and typically much larger than the red fox common in other parts of Alaska and the lower 48 states of America. Many of the foxes on Kodiak are what are referred to as “cross foxes” and have color variations of silver and black fur mixed in.
#3 – The River Otter
Sometimes called the land otter, in order to distinguish it from the sea otters who inhabit the surrounding ocean waters of Kodiak, the river otter is commonly found throughout most of Alaska and often stick together in small, family groups.
#4 – The Ermine
Sometimes referred to as a weasel, the ermine is one of the smaller land-dwelling mammals of Kodiak that’s well-known for its color transformation from reddish-brown to an almost pure white during the winter months.
#5 – The Tundra Vole
Significantly smaller than the ermine, at #5 we have the tundra vole, which looks and acts much like a mouse.
#6 – The Brown Bat
This is the one that usually stumps people when asked about the six native Kodiak land mammals, as bats are sometimes mistaken for a reptile or a bird. However, the little brown bat is indeed classified as a nocturnal, winged land mammal, and they can commonly be seen at dusk during the warmer months flying about and feeding on insects.
Kodiak Island Introduced Species
All the other land-dwelling mammal on Kodiak Island, Alaska, have been introduced over the years between the 1920s through the 1950s. The Sitka blacktail deer was introduced in 1924 from deer that were transplanted from Sitka Alaska, in the southeast region of the state. The Roosevelt elk were transplanted from Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in 1929. The reindeer on Kodiak came from an original herd of thirty-two Siberian reindeer that were introduced in 1921. Mountain goats from Alaska’s Kenia Peninsula were brought to Kodiak in 1952.
The smaller land mammals of Kodiak, such as the marten, red squirrel, snowshoe hare, and beaver were also introduced during that time period between the 1920s through the 1950s, and there was an attempt made to establish a population of moose and Dall sheep as well, but those efforts ultimately failed. Bison have been brought to the island as well over the years, but more so as an effort by cattle ranchers, who lost many of their animals due to predation by the bears. Unlike many species of cattle, bison actually fight back when threatened, sometimes very aggressively.
So that’s an overview of the six indigenous land mammals of Kodiak Island Alaska and the many introduced species that also now live there.