About the Refuge

Bear prints across green tundra above lakes

Kodiak: the “Island of the Great Bear.”

Kodiak: the “Island of the Great Bear.” Genetically distinct, Kodiak brown bear have inhabited the wild, rugged Kodiak Archipelago in the Gulf of Alaska, 252 miles southwest of Anchorage. For at least 7,500 years, humans and bears have coexisted on Kodiak, homeland of the Alutiiq people.

Poster of bear standing in the water with mountainsIncreasing pressure from Russian and American settlements led to a declining Kodiak brown bear population by the early 20th century. At the same time, the world began to take notice of the incredible size and unique natural history of the iconic animals. Inspired by concerned sportsmen and conservationists, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge in 1941 to protect Kodiak bears and their habitat. In 2016, the refuge celebrated 75 years of conservation!

Today, the refuge has a global conservation role - to instill regard for bears, salmon, and other wildlife; to protect interdependent species of fish, wildlife and plants within the largest intact, pristine island ecosystem in North America; and to ensure compatible management of wildlife, subsistence, recreation, and economic uses of refuge resources.

Misty fjords, deep glacial valleys, and lofty mountains distinguish the 1.9 million-acre refuge. Diverse habitats encompass 117 salmon-bearing streams, 16 lakes, riparian wetlands, grasslands, shrub lands, spruce forest, tundra, and alpine meadows. Collectively these habitats sustain 3,000 bears, account for up to 30 million salmon caught by the Kodiak-based fishing fleet, support more than 400 breeding pairs of bald eagles, and provide essential migration and breeding habitat for another 250 species of fish, birds and mammals. Such natural abundance and spectacular scenery attracts thousands of visitors to the refuge annually.

Kodiak Refuge 75th Commemoration Poster is availablehere.

Refuge Purposes
Under the Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA), the purposes of Kodiak Refuge were further defined and expanded beyond the original purpose identified in the 1941 establishing order. Section 303(5)(B) of ANILCA states:

The purposes for which the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge is established and shall be managed include-

A. Conserve fish and wildlife populations and habitats in their natural diversity including, but not limited to, Kodiak brown bears, salmonids, sea otters, sea lions and other marine mammals and migratory birds.

B. Fulfill international treaty obligations of the United States with respect to fish and wildlife.

C. Provide the opportunity for continued subsistence uses by local residents consistent with the primary purposes of the refuge. 

D. Ensure water quality and necessary water quantity within the refuge