Kodiak Bear Attack

The Kodiak brown bear is the largest bear in the world, with the biggest one on record weighing in at close to 1,700 pounds. Being in the presence of one of these massive animals is an experience that evokes instant respect and tremendous caution! But how dangerous are these giant beasts? Do Kodiak bears attack humans? If so, how many people have been killed by Kodiak bears? In this blog and video, you’ll learn the answer to those questions and more.

Many popular TV shows have dramatized the Kodiak brown bear as a huge bloodthirsty beast, and they’re often referred to as “the largest land-dwelling carnivore on earth!” In reality though, the coastal brown bears of Alaska, as well as true grizzly bears of the interior regions of wilderness, are actually omnivores, just like we humans. They eat a wide variety of foods including grass, berries, roots, fish (if living in coastal areas) and yes, meat when it’s available!

While bear maulings and fatal bear attacks in Alaska and elsewhere do indeed happen from time to time and are very tragic, the reality is that most bears want nothing to do with people, including having them on the menu. In fact, out of all the fatal bear attacks in Alaska over the years, very few of them ever result in the bear actually eating the victim, again, with some noted exceptions, such as Timothy Tredwell.

The Adventures of King Kodiak, The Biggest Brown Bear in the World, Joseph Classen
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The bear population on Kodiak Island, Alaska, is around 3,500 of the largest bears on earth. Every year, thousands of people venture into bear country on the island to enjoy a wide variety of outdoor activities. Out of all those people and all those bears, there has only been one person killed by a Kodiak bear in the last 100 years, which took place in the fall of 1999. The victim was deer hunting in the Uganik Island area of Kodiak when he was mauled by a bear. According to the state medical examiner at the time, the victim did not sustain any fatal injuries to the head and neck, but bled to death as a result of his many wounds.

Before this tragic event in 1999, the last fatal mauling occurred in 1921, 78 years earlier. While fatal attacks are extremely rare though, nonfatal attacks do occur more frequently, with one mauling every other year on average. Again, bear attacks of any kind in Alaska are extremely rare, but they do indeed happen.

Why do Bears Attack?

I did an entire video on this topic some time ago, but many, if not most bear maulings and fatal attacks are the result of individuals who are not properly educated about bear safety protocol, who just blatantly ignore bear country etiquette, or who are unfortunately in the wrong place at the wrong time, such as a hunter packing out a harvested deer when a hungry bear comes along. Whatever the case though, bears attack humans for one of four reasons:

  1. Threatening their food, or what they perceive as their food
  2. Threatening their space by surprising a bear, which is one of the most common reasons for bear maulings.
  3. Threatening their young, even if you don’t intend to.
  4. Yes, sometimes bears really are out to get you…though very rarely!

During any bear encounter, what the bear perceives as reality can be quite different from the intentions of the individual human. For example, if a female bear thinks you are a threat to her cubs, or her food, or you stumble upon her while she’s resting in the thick brush, then there’s a good chance that she’ll take immediate action to neutralize that threat. And while the bear may have no true intention of killing you as a part of neutralizing what she perceives as a threat, it certainly doesn’t take much effort from an animal five times your size to inflict serious or even fatal injuries. So learning to be safe in bear country is of the utmost importance in order to avoid any potentially dangerous altercations. I’ve done many videos on bear behavior and safety topics if you’d like to learn more.

Check out the video below to learn more…


Sources: Alaska Department of Fish & Game and Anchorage Daily News