Wildlife & Habitat

Wildlife and Habitat

Famous for its Kodiak brown bears, the refuge is known around the world. Bears, bald eagles, salmon and a diversity of other fish and wildlife abound on the 1.9 million acres of pristine upland and waters. 

Birds

Native Mammals

Introduced Species

Habitat

 

  • Birds

    Tufted Puffin

    Kodiak Refuge and the surrounding marine waters are a birder’s paradise. A total of 247 species have been observed on the Kodiak archipelago and winter bird counts are among the highest in Alaska.

    Complete checklist of Kodiak archipelago birds  (updated 2021)

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  • Native Mammals

    Only six species of land mammals occur naturally within Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. These include: Kodiak brown bear (Ursus arctus middendorffi), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), river otter (Lutra canadensis), ermine (Mustela erminea), tundra vole (Microtus oeconomus), and little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). Kodiak bears have been extensively studied, and much is known of their biology and habitat requirements. In contrast, ecology of other native mammals is minimally documented. 

  • Brown Bear

    Bear cub. Photo by M. Weisenberger.

    Kodiak brown bears are a distinct subspecies from mainland brown bears; they have been isolated on the archipelago since the last ice age, about 12,000 years ago. A rich variety of vegetation, salmon, and berries provide ideal habitat for bears, and their population flourishes - estimated at about 3,000 bears within the boundaries of the Kodiak Refuge.

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  • Red Fox

    fox

    Red foxes can be found throughout most of northern North America. In Alaska, they can be found everywhere except some of the islands in Southeast Alaska and the western Aleutians. The red fox is native to Kodiak Island, but it was introduced on many islands in the state as a result of fox farming in the early 1900's. 

  • River Otter

    otter1

    River otters can be found throughout Alaska except the Aleutian Islands, islands in the Bering Sea, and parts of the arctic coast. River otters hunt on land as well as in salt and freshwater. They eat a varied diet of snails, mussels, clams, sea urchins, insects, crabs, shrimp, octopi, frogs, fish, and occasionally birds, mammals and vegetable matter.

  • Ermine

    ermine

    Ermine can be found across the Kodiak archipelago and throughout Alaska with the exception of the Aleutian Islands. They are adapted to a wide variety of habitat types provided there is a large enough population of small mammals for them to eat. In the winter, ermine turn completely white except for a black tail tip to help them blend in to the snow.

  • Tundra Vole

    Voles are an important food source for many animals on Kodiak Island, including ermine, foxes, owls, hawks, and even brown bears. The tundra vole is one of the largest species of vole found in Alaska. They prefer moist tundra habitat and build runways through the vegetation surrounding their shallow burrows. Tundra voles eat grasses, sedges, seeds, grain, bark, and insects.

  • Little Brown Bat

    bat

    Little brown bats are widely distributed across southern Alaska and have been spotted as far north as the Yukon River north of Fairbanks. They are the only Myotis species of bat to be collected north of the 59°N latitude. Little brown bat populations are thought to be stable in Alaska, but they are in decline in other parts of the U.S. due to White Nose Syndrome, a devastating fungal infection.

  • Introduced Species

    Between the 1920’s and 1960’s, several species of non-native mammals were introduced to increase subsistence and recreational opportunities in the archipelago. Eight species established, spread, and now commonly occur on the refuge. They are: Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis), mountain goats (Oreamnos americanus), Roosevelt elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus), beaver (Castor canadensis), red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus), and pine marten (Martes americana). Populations of deer, elk, mountain goat, and snowshoe hare are now highly valued by sport and subsistence hunters. Some of these also are a source of management concern because of their potential to influence the quality of native fish and wildlife habitats.

  • Sitka Black-tailed Deer

    Sitka Deer

    Sitka-black tailed deer are a healthy introduced population that thrive throughout the Kodiak archipelago. 

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  • Habitat

    Mountain Lake

    Refuge terrain is mostly mountainous dissected by fiords and deep river valleys carved by ancient glaciers. Diverse refuge wildlands, ranging from Sitka spruce forest on Afognak Island to rolling tundra on the Aliulik Peninsula, help sustain 3,500 brown bears within the Kodiak archipelago, support over 400 breeding pairs of bald eagles, and provide essential migration and breeding habitat for another 250 species of wildlife.

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