In the Field

King Kodiak Bear – Behind the Scenes Story

Huge, giant Kodiak bear

The Kodiak brown bear is the biggest bear in the world, with the largest one on record being close to 1700lbs. However, while the Kodiak brown bear can and does exceed the size of the coastal brown bears of the mainland of Alaska…due to its slightly larger bone structure…regularly encountering those massive, enormous 1000-plus pound bears is not all that common…at least it hasn’t been for me. Out of the 100’s of Kodiak bears I’ve crossed paths with over the years, I’ve only come across a few that were well over that 1000 pound range. One of them is a bear I refer to as “King Kodiak,” who I‘ve featured in many of my videos as well as some of my books.

The iconic photo of King Kodiak!
The iconic photo of King Kodiak!

I’ve been doing a lot of videos and blog articles recently about the behind the scenes stories of my favorite bears, so I thought I’d share the story of King Kodiak with you as well. A few years ago, on a beautiful summer day, I found myself kicking back along the green riverside grass waiting for the bears to come and feed on the abundant numbers of sockeye salmon that were present. Earlier in the morning, I captured some great images of a sow and cub fishing together, but all activity ceased during the late morning and mid-day. Many hours later, while taking a few minutes to relax and enjoy the sunshine, I suddenly heard the unmistakable sound of an approaching bear in the thick, nearby brush. Suddenly, an absolutely gigantic, humongous bear emerged from the alder thicket behind me! He gave me a quick glance, paused for a moment, and then kept heading right in my general direction. As he closed into where I was seated, he simply walked right around me…at a very close distance, but in a completely non-threatening manner.

I was set up in a spot that was designated for people to view and photograph bears, which is an ideal setting. The repetition of bears seeing a small number of people in the exact same spot, doing the exact same thing, for weeks at a time, is a safe and highly productive manner in which to view and photograph bears. Consistent, non-threatening or alarming human behavior is key to a good working relationship with bears while on their turf.

The intimidating glance of King Kodiak as he walked by me.
The intimidating glance of King Kodiak as he walked by me.

Anyhow, while I was completely safe, even at a fairly close distance to that bear, it was still a heart-pounding experience! And, even though that bear looks mean and intimidating in the photograph, in reality, he was just an old bear, with bad teeth, bad eyes, and lazy mannerisms. As that titanic beast slowly sauntered by me, he eventually made his way to the river in front of me. He got in the cool, salmon-filled water like an old man entering a fantastically soothing hot tub! All the other bears cleared out of the way, and he just sat there for several minutes as the rushing water enveloped him. After cooling down and getting a nice bath, he then proceeded to make his way to the nearby salmon weir and defiantly walk right across it. After all, who was going to tell him to get off! He hung around for a while, ate some fish, and then headed back to the thick alder trees to lay in the shade and digest all that protein. It was quite an experience to be in the presence of a bear of that size and I’ve yet to encounter one that big since.

So that’s a little bit of the behind the scenes story of King Kodiak. If you’d like to check out lots more bear videos, be sure to subscribe to the Wild Revelation Outdoors YouTube Channel.

To see more photos, check out the video version of this story by clicking here.

(Stay up to date on new blog posts and media by subscribing to our newsletter. Go to the bottom of the home page or the sidebar of this blog and sign up today!)

How to photograph bears. Photography book. Joseph Classen.
To learn more about bears, check out my book, How to Photograph Bear – The Beauty of the Beast.