Tag Archives: Kodiak Bears

What Do Kodiak Bears Eat?

 

One of the main reasons Kodiak bears grow so much larger than inland grizzly bears is due to the abundance of food on Kodiak. Not only can bears feast on protein-rich salmon in the summer, but the archipelago is loaded with nutritious vegetation and sugar-packed berries. A brown bear’s jaws have powerful muscles and teeth that have evolved to adapt to an omnivorous diet of both plants and animals. Kodiak bears are opportunistic feeders. They eat roots, berries, grasses, sedges, wildflowers, wild celery, and other plants, as well as rodents, insects, large mammals (including deer and mountain goats), fish, carrion, and yes, unfortunately, garbage and pet food.

 Bears’ stomachs contract during hibernation, and when they first leave their dens, they aren’t hungry. They eat little at first, concentrating on emerging plants and their roots. As the spring progresses, Kodiak bears can be seen feeding in grassy meadows and look much like grazing cattle. Their diet switches to salmon in the summer months, when they chase and catch fish in shallow streams or on the tidal flats near the heads of the deep, narrow bays on Kodiak. Bears also consume dead salmon that have washed up on shore. When the salmonberries, elderberries, crowberries, blueberries and other berries begin to ripen on Kodiak in late July and August, most bears spend at least part of their day in berry thickets, pulling the berries from the bushes with their lips and mouths. Salmon provide bears with fat and protein, and berries are high in natural sugars, all of which are important for building up a fat reserve for hibernation. As fall progresses, bears increase their consumption of salmon and berries as they strive to build up their fat layer before entering the den for hibernation. A diet rich in berries has its downside, though. Bears are one of the few wild animals susceptible to tooth decay. Abscessed teeth are not uncommon, and rotten teeth may affect the bear’s ability to eat and may even lead to starvation.

 One of the most enjoyable aspects of bear viewing is watching a bear chase and catch a salmon. Sows teach their cubs how to fish and will often corral a salmon toward the cub in shallow water and then encourage the cub to chase the fish. A sow with newborn cubs that are still nursing will only allow her cubs to eat a small part of her catch after she has had her fill because she needs the extra protein to produce the milk to nurse her cubs, and the cubs are receiving most of their nutrition from her. As the cubs age, they nurse less, and the sow shares more of her catch with them. Finally, when they are old enough, she encourages them to fish on their own, and by the time the cubs are two years old, they can usually chase and catch a few salmon without the help of their mother.

Fishing is a skill bears learn with much practice over time, so young bears are often clumsy fishermen. A sub-adult bear may gallop back and forth in a stream for thirty minutes without successfully landing a salmon, while an older bear walks slowly downstream and pounces on a passing salmon with little effort. A bear may also develop his own unique fishing technique. One bear may sit on a fallen log hanging low over a stream and attempt to grab fish as they swim past. A second bear may “submarine” by dunking his head under water to watch for fish, and a third may obtain his fish by chasing another bear and stealing that bear’s catch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Munsey and Boda

20160530_081636

20160530_084322 (2)This past Memorial Day, my cousin and his wife, Mike and Mary Kohr, drove from their home in Minnesota to Marshfield, Wisconsin to visit Munsey and Boda at the Wildwood Zoo. Those of you have been following my blog know that Munsey and Boda are two of the three bear cubs we helped rescue last spring after their mother was shot by a hunter. If you haven’t read these posts, follow these links to read the first one and the second one.

We were thrilled that Mike and Mary planned a trip to see the bears. We had seen recent photos of the cubs and knew they were thriving, but from the photos, we only caught glimpses of the bear enclosure at the zoo. Mike promised to take photos and videos of the enclosure and to send them to us. The thumb drive with the photos and videos arrived a few days ago, along with a special treat: The Marshfield, Wisconsin Visitor’s Guide. Guess whose photos are splashed across the cover of the visitor’s guide? That’s right! Two spunky, healthy Kodiak Bear cubs dominate the visitor’s guide. Not only are their photos on the cover, but the guide has a nice, long article about the cubs and how they came to call the Wildwood Zoo home.

20160530_081745Mike and Mary’s photos and videos provided us with great views of the bear enclosure. This enclosure was completed just before the bears were transferred to the zoo, and it is spacious and beautiful. The Wildwood Zoo is not a large zoo, and the bear enclosure is the centerpiece of the facility. The enclosure cost 1.3 million dollars to build. Designers took an existing 1,200 square-foot outdoor exhibit and expanded it by adding 4,600 square feet. This enclosure includes a one-acre wooded area called the “Bear Woods,” and an enclosed bridge that spans 65 feet connects the woods to the primary exhibit area. Additional pools with recirculating water were added to the exhibit, and state-of-the-art containment and care facilities were added to the existing den building. The bridge joining the woods and the primary exhibit area is usually left open, allowing the bears to wander back and forth, but the bridge can be closed if the staff needs to isolate the bears from each other for some reason.

Here is what Mike Kohr had to say about Marshfield and the Wildwood Zoo: “Marshfield, Wisconsin is a small rural town of about 20,000 people. The Wildwood Park and Zoo complex is small but well maintained and seems to be very popular. The zoo itself is small and does not charge admission. It has mostly birds and a few mammals. However, the Kodiak Bear complex/exhibit is spectacular by any standard. I love zoos and have been to many around the world. Munsey and Boda are in a great place that rivals any bear exhibit I have seen.”20160530_081734

 Mike said that wherever he and Mary went in Marshfield, people asked them if they had seen the bears. Munsey and Boda truly are the stars of not only the zoo but the entire town. For two little bears that nearly died from dehydration and hunger on a Kodiak mountainside, life at the Wildwood Zoo is very sweet.

Thank you, Mike and Mary for visiting the zoo and sharing your photos, videos, and observations with us. The Marshfield Visitor’s Guide is a treat that we will share with our guests. If any of you are in Wisconsin in the near future, take a little extra time and swing by the Wildwood Zoo to say hi to Munsey and Boda. E-mail your photos to me at robin@robinbarefield.com, and I will share them on my blog!

Thanks to everyone who came to my Facebook Book Launch party and/or stopped by the Book Launch page on my website. Laura Nelson was the winner of the raffle for the $25 gift card on my website, so congratulations, Laura, and thank you to everyone who entered.