A Visit with the World’s Largest Bears… Part 1

Kodiak Bears in the Frazer River on Kodiak Island.

The beautiful Frazer River on Kodiak Island is home to some of the largest bears in the world.

The largest Kodiak Bears can tower up to ten feet when standing on their hind feet and weigh over 1500 pounds. With these stats, the brown bears of Kodiak Island are considered the largest bears in the world.

We were privileged this past week to spend a day watching them on the Frazer River, which flows out of Frazer Lake on the southern, uninhabited part of the island. We flew in by floatplane and then hiked for a quarter of a mile to a section of the river that had dropped several feet during Alaska’s massive 1964 earthquake. A fish ladder had been built to help the salmon over the section. The Kodiak Bears consider the area beneath the falls and ladder to be their personal fishing hole.

A Kodiak Bear prepares to go fishing on the Frazer River.

A Kodiak Bear prepares to go fishing on the Frazer River.

Our son Tony, who flies helicopters for the Coast Guard out of Kodiak, and his wife Cammie had arranged for the trip. We owe them big. It was a gorgeous day in a beautiful area and a number of bears were fishing for salmon. This is the first of three blogs I am going to do about the experience. Today I will feature moms and their cubs. Next I will focus on the bears fishing. I will finish with some fun photos of bears being bears.

Cubs are born in January or February while their mother is still hibernating in her cave. They then nurse for several months before emerging in June. They weigh approximately one pound when born. Cubs live with mom for three plus years before venturing out on their own. Bears have their first cubs around five years of age and continue to produce litters every four years or so into their twenties.

A mother Kodiak Bear checks on the welfare of her three cubs. The cubs were waiting for mom on a fish pass that led the salmon to the fish ladder.

A mother Kodiak Bear checks on the welfare of her three cubs. The cubs are standing on a fish pass that leads  salmon to the fish ladder. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

Here the three cubs are waiting patiently while mom fishes. They will lose their white collar in their second year.

Here the three cubs are waiting patiently while mom fishes. They will lose their white-collar in their second year. It is hard to believe that these little tykes will grow up and weigh over 1000 pounds. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

I liked this shot of mom and her parade. She had just chased off a male Kodiak Bear.

I liked this shot of mom and her parade. She had just chased off a male Kodiak Bear. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

A different Kodiak Bear mom touches noses with her cub. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A different Kodiak Bear mom touches noses with her cub. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Kodiak Cub next to  Frazer River  on Kodiak Island.

We watched this cub playing with its mom in high grass where we couldn’t get any photos although she was about ten yards away.

Kodiak cub stands on hind feet searching for mom fishing in the Frazer River on Kodiak Island.

“Where did Mom go?” the little guy seems to be asking as he stands up on his hind feet and looks for her.

Kodiak cub watches its mother fish in the Frazer River on Kodiak Island.

Momma Kodiak has her head buried in water searching for Salmon. Junior joined her for the show. “Catch a big one, Mom.”

Having caught a fish, Mom shares it with her cub.

Having caught a fish, Mom shares it with her cub.

NEXT BLOG: Peggy and I watch the Kodiak Bears on the Frazer River catch enough salmon to make the most skilled fisherman jealous.

19 comments on “A Visit with the World’s Largest Bears… Part 1

    • The Frazer River trip was indeed special. And we were so lucky our kids won it in an auction and gave it to us as a present. They sprung it on us the evening before we went. 🙂 –Curt

  1. Good gosh! Check out this post from one of my Weather Underground friends. Her son is a Coast Guard flight mechanic at – Kodiak! I haven’t been able to find her son’s name yet, and she’s not around her blog because she’s traveling. Still, I imagine it’s not to hard to figure out who he is from what she said in her blog entry.

    As for the bear and her cubs, the “Awwwww” factor is pretty high, here.There’s no picking a favorite. It’s just wonderful that you’d take the time to get such marvelous photos and post them for us. They truly are wonderful.

    • I will share the story with Tony. If your friends son is still here, he probably has been on one of Tony’s flights.

      Yeah, lots of aww… the little guys were really cute. And the mom-cub interaction was a delight. The moms obviously love their kids. At least it certainly appeared like affection. I love watching the one cub play with its mom.

      –Curt

  2. OMG. Please tell us Peggy had a ginormous (my slang) artillery cannon for a zoom lens!!! The second shot of the cubs and mom on the bridge… are those “things” on the walkway remnants of their meals?? I think my littlest daughter would want to be one of those cubs as she loves salmon roe! Great stuff here, Kurt and Peggy!

  3. It looks like a beautiful spot, and quite the bear hootenanny. I love the Mom with the 3 in tow. I don’t see many trees around. What exactly was your escape plan? And don’t give me that “I just have to run faster than Peggy” line. ~James

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