Kodiak Island lies off the south coast of Alaska, separated from the mainland by the Shelikof Strait. It is second in size only to the big island of Hawaii among all islands that are part of the United States. It is often called the Emerald Isle, with all due deference to Ireland, because the abundant precipitation keeps the foliage bright green year round. The southwestern two-thirds of the island are part of the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. Kodiak Island is part of the larger Kodiak Archipelago, which is made up of the islands of Kodiak, Afognak, Shuyak, Raspberry, Uganik, Sitkalidak, and many other smaller surround islands.
The refuge is home to the Kodiak bear (Ursus arctos middendorfii ). A subspecies of the brown bear, it ranks as the largest brown bear and is second in size among bear species to only the polar bear. Living on a diet rich in protein from the abundant salmon runs in the rivers on the island is one of the reasons these bears can attain such a large size. Genetically, they have probably been isolated from other brown bear populations for the last 10,000 to 12,000 years, but are most closely related to brown bear population on the Alaskan Peninsula and Kamchatka, Russia.
Average adult male bears are 8 feet long (2.4 m) and stand 4 feet 4 inches (1.3 m) tall at the shoulder. Adult males typically weigh between 800 pounds (360 kg) and 1400 pounds (635 kg). The bear population in the Kodiak Archipelago was estimated at 3,526 bears in 2005. This yields an estimated archipelago-wide bear density of 0.7 bears/square mile (271.2 bears/1000 square kilometers).
The bear seen in this week's photo is a young male bear slowly making his way upstream along Dog Salmon Creek toward the fish ladder that provides access into Frazer Lake for red, or sockeye, salmon that spawn in lakes.
This photo was taken with a Canon EOS 10D dSLR with a Canon EF 100-400 mm lens zoomed to 285 mm. Shutter speed was 1/180 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 200.