There are six state parks in and around Kodiak Island. Ft. Abercrombie State Historical Park, Buskin River State Recreation Site, and Pasagshak River State Recreation Site are on the Kodiak road system. Shuyak Island State Park, Afognak Island State Park, and Woody Island State Recreation Site are accessible by boat or float plane.
Kodiak District Office
1400 Abercrombie Drive
Kodiak, AK 99615
One of the things that makes Alaska so special is that all three species of North American bears flourish here. There is a chance that you may be lucky enough to see a bear. But even if you don't, you will never be far from one, because Alaska is bear country.
Brown/grizzly bears are found from the islands of southeastern Alaska to the arctic. Black bears inhabit most of Alaska's forests. Polar bears frequent the pack ice and tundra of extreme northern and western Alaska.
Bears are curious, intelligent and potentially dangerous animals, but undue fear of bears can endanger both bears and people. Many bears are killed each year by people who are afraid of them. Respecting bears and learning proper behavior in their territory will help so that if you encounter a bear, neither of you will suffer needlessly from the experience.
Most bears tend to avoid people. In most cases, if you give a bear the opportunity to do the right thing, it will. Many bears live in Alaska and many people enjoy the outdoors, but surprisingly few people even see bears. Only a tiny percentage of those few are ever threatened by a bear. A study by the state epidemiologist showed that during the first 85 years of this century, only 20 people died in bear attacks in Alaska. In the 10 years 1975-85, 19 people in Alaska were killed by dogs.
Most people who see a bear in the wild consider it the highlight of their trip. The presence of these majestic creatures is a reminder of how privileged we are to share some of the country's dwindling wilderness.
Bears and People
Bears Don't Like Surprises! If you are hiking through bear country, make your presence known — especially where the terrain or vegetation makes it hard to see. Make noise, sing, talk loudly or tie a bell to your pack. If possible, travel with a group. Groups are noisier and easier for bears to detect. Avoid thick brush. If you can't, try to walk with the wind at your back so your scent will warn bears of your presence. Contrary to popular belief, bears can see almost as well as people, but trust their noses much more than their eyes or ears. Always let bears know you are there.
Bears, like humans, use trails and roads. Don't set up camp close to a trail they might use. Detour around areas where you see or smell carcasses of fish or animals, or see scavengers congregated. A bear's food may be there and if the bear is nearby, it may defend the cache aggressively.
Don't Crowd Bears! Give bears plenty of room. Some bears are more tolerant than others, but every bear has a personal "space" — the distance within which a bear feels threatened. If you stray within that zone, a bear may react aggressively. When photographing bears, use long lenses; getting close for a great shot could put you inside the danger zone.
Bears Are Always Looking for Something to Eat! Bears have only about six months to build up fat reserves for their long winter hibernation. Don't let them learn human food or garbage is an easy meal. It is both foolish and illegal to feed bears, either on purpose or by leaving food or garbage that attracts them.
Cook away from your tent. Store all food away from your campsite. Hang food out of reach of bears if possible. If no trees are available, store your food in airtight or specially designed bear-proof containers. Remember, pets and their food may also attract bears.
Keep a clean camp. Wash your dishes. Avoid smelly food like bacon and smoked fish. Keep food smells off your clothing. Burn garbage completely in a hot fire and pack out the remains. Food and garbage are equally attractive to a bear so treat them with equal care. Burying garbage is a waste of time. Bears have keen noses and are great diggers.
If a bear approaches while you are fishing, stop fishing. If you have a fish on your line, don't let it splash. If that's not possible, cut your line. If a bear learns it can obtain fish just by approaching fishermen, it will return for more.
Close Encounters: What to do
If you see a bear, avoid it if you can. Give the bear every opportunity to avoid you. If you do encounter a bear at close distance, remain calm. Attacks are rare. Chances are, you are not in danger. Most bears are interested only in protecting food, cubs, or their "personal space." Once the threat is removed, they will move on. Remember the following:
Identify Yourself. Let the bear know you are human. Talk to the bear in a normal voice. Wave your arms. Help the bear recognize you. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious, not threatening. You may try to back away slowly diagonally, but if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground.
Don't Run. You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph, and like dogs, they will chase fleeing animals. Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Continue waving your arms and talking to the bear. If the bear gets too close, raise your voice and be more aggressive. Bang pots and pans. Use noisemakers. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal.
If Attacked. If a bear actually makes contact, you have two choices: play dead or fight back. The best choice depends on whether the bear is reacting defensively or is seeking food. Play dead if you are attacked by a grizzly bear you have surprised, encountered on a carcass, or any female bear that seems to be protecting cubs. Lie flat on your stomach, or curl up in a ball with your hands behind your neck. Typically, a bear will break off its attack once it feels the threat has been eliminated. Remain motionless for as long as possible. If you move, and the bear sees of hears you, it may return and renew its attack. Rarely, lone black bears or grizzlies may perceive a person as potential food. Fight any bear that follows you or breaks into a tent or building. Fight any black bear regardless of circumstances.
Firearms should never be used as an alternative to common-sense approaches to bear encounters. If you are inexperienced with a firearm in emergency situations, you are more likely to be injured by a gun than a bear. It is illegal to carry firearms in some of Alaska's national parks, so check before you go.
A .300-Magnum rifle or a 12-gauge shotgun with rifled slugs are appropriate weapons if you have to shoot a bear. Heavy handguns such as a .44-Magnum may be inadequate in emergency situations, especially in untrained hands.
State law allows a bear to be shot in self-defense if you did not provoke the attack and if there is no alternative. But the hide and skull must be salvaged and turned over to the authorities.
Defensive aerosol sprays which contain capsicum (red pepper extract) have been used with some success for protection against bears. These sprays may be effective at a range of 6-8 yards. If discharged upwind or in a vehicle, they can disable the user. Take appropriate precautions. If you carry a spray can, keep it handy and know how to use it.
-Avoid surprising bears at close distance; look for signs of bears and make plenty of noise.
-Avoid crowding bears; respect their "personal space."
-Avoid attracting bears through improper handling of food or garbage.
-Plan ahead, stay calm, identify yourself, don't run.
In most cases, bears are not a threat, but they do deserve your respect and attention. When traveling in bear country, keep alert and enjoy the opportunity to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.
Female bears can be fierce defenders of their young. Getting between a female and her cubs is a serious mistake. A female bear may respond aggressively to any threat she perceives to her cubs.
The text of this document was excerpted and adapted from a brochure, Bear Facts, produced by ADF&G in cooperation with other state and federal agencies, and is not protected by copyrights belonging to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Kodiak Natural History
Geographic Location and Geologic Setting
Situated in the Gulf of Alaska, Kodiak Island is separated from mainland Alaska by Shelikof Strait. Kodiak Island is located 25 miles (40 km) southeast of the Alaska Peninsula, approximately 90 miles (145 km) southwest of the Kenai Peninsula. The town of Kodiak is 252 air miles (405 km) from Anchorage. Approximately 100 miles (161 km) by 50 miles (80 km), Kodiak is comprised of moderately rugged mountains which average 2,000 to 4,000 feet (610 to 1219 meters) in elevation. The "Emerald Isle" has moderately rocky headlands with glacially sculpted valleys.
Kodiak Island's geologic activity is characterized by areas of intense activity along the boundaries where tectonic plates collide, and are separated or slide past each other. Earthquakes and volcanoes occur frequently at these plate junctures. In Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and Kodiak are located near a subduction plate boundary approximately 93 miles (150 km) to the southeast. The Pacific Plate is sliding underneath the North American Plate at approximately 2.5 inches or 6 cm per year.
The variety of vegetation and plant communities on Kodiak Island is quite spectacular and provides an unusually attractive array of color, patterns and textures. The mild maritime temperatures and ample rainfall contribute to the abundance of green vegetation that is responsible for Kodiak's other name, "The Emerald Isle".
Stunningly beautiful coastal wildflower meadows are a highlight for any visitor in summer. Other lowland vegetation includes grasslands, shrub-lands of willows, dwarf birch and alder, rich wetlands and wet tundra. Alpine tundra covers the ridges and grows above tree line, which varies from about 500 to 1,000 feet.
The Sitka spruce forest that adorns the lower elevations, is relatively young, and only covers the northeast end of Kodiak Island, especially in the vicinity of Monashka Bay and Cape Chiniak. It is not mixed with any other species of trees, which makes it unique in the world. It is a forest on the move and is spreading toward the southwest at a rate of about a mile every hundred years. The low protected valleys of central, eastern, and western Kodiak Island contain balsam poplar (cottonwood) and Kenai birch. An abundance of Sitka alder and a variety of willow species grow on the slopes and riparian habitats. The southern two thirds of the island are virtually treeless and support a thick cover of grass and wet tundra.
Kodiak is home to several species of terrestrial mammals ranging in size from the little brown bat to the famous Kodiak brown bear.
The most common species of small mammals are the indigenous brown bat, short-tailed weasel, land otter and tundra vole as well as the introduced red squirrel, beaver, muskrat, house mouse, and the Norway rat.
The Kodiak brown bear is the only large mammal that is native to the island. In the past century, Sitka black-tailed deer, mountain goats, and reindeer have been successfully introduced to Kodiak. Roosevelt elk were successfully transplanted to Afognak Island, where they now constitute a healthy population that occasionally has members that swim across to Kodiak Island.
Kodiak brown bears are a unique subspecies, limited to the Kodiak archipelago. The current population exceeds 3,000 bears that occupy all available habitats on the islands. Recent studies have shown that the Kodiak bear population is healthy and productive. Bear densities are highest in areas that do not have permanent human occupation however, several bears occupy the Kodiak city vicinity. The Kodiak brown bears are arguably the largest in the world and they are an important economic resource for people. Sport hunting is closely regulated by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides habitat protection on the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.
In the past decade, bear viewing has emerged as an increasingly important human use of the bear population. Bear human interactions are common occurrences in the Kodiak islands and there are few cases where people are seriously injured by bears.
Sitka black-tailed deer are common throughout Kodiak Island, with an estimated population of over 60,000 deer. These ungulates were introduced from southeast Alaska at the turn of the last century and today they provide one of the most important sources of meat to Kodiak residents and many non-local hunters. Deer populations are dramatically impacted by winter and early spring weather conditions, often succumbing to starvation or hypothermia when severe weather persists. In urban areas deer are also vulnerable to loose dogs, especially during the winter and early spring.
Mountain goats were introduced to Kodiak from the Prince William Sound area in the 1950s and now occupy all suitable habitats on Kodiak, with a population of about 2,000 goats. The goats are also an important species to hunters and wildlife viewers. Goat sightings in the mountains near Kodiak city have become more common in the past 10 years as the overall population has been increasing and expanding. There have been no reported adverse encounters between goats and people.
Roosevelt elk were introduced to Afognak Island from the Olympic Peninsula of Washington in the late 1920's. The population now stands at about 900 elk, occupying most areas on Afognak and Raspberry Islands. Occasionally elk swim across to Kodiak Island but a self-sustaining herd has never been established. There have been unconfirmed sightings of elk in the Monashka Bay area in recent years.
Reindeer were introduced to Kodiak in the 1920's as an agricultural experiment. By the 1950's all herding had ceased and the reindeer are now considered feral. About 200 reindeer currently occupy the southwest part of the island and they never venture as far north as the City of Kodiak.
Other domestic livestock that free-range on the island include bison, cattle, and horses. Smaller animals found throughout the area, including the park, include fox, rabbit, muskrat, squirrel and beaver. Harbor seals, sea lions, and sea otter are seen frequently along the coastline.
Guide to Marine Life at Fort Abercrombie SHP
Weather and Local Climate Information
Kodiak Island has primarily a maritime climate with mild temperature ranges for Alaska. The warm Japanese Current plays a prominent role in producing mild winters and moist, cool summers. Precipitation levels vary widely throughout the year, with June, the driest month, and October the wettest. The average annual temperature is 40.8°F (4.8°C). The average annual precipitation is 67.6 inches (171.7 centimeters). Snowfall records average 78.7 inches (199.9 cm) per year (NOAA, 2003). For the majority of the year, the prevailing wind direction is northwesterly. Maximum wind gusts occur during winter months with gusts greater than 58 mph (50 knots).
Kodiak Citizen Advisory Board
Statement of Purpose:
The purposes for which this Board is organized are as follows:
1. To provide a forum for the collection and expression of opinions and recommendations on matters relating to State parks and outdoor recreation;
2. To promote protection of the natural and cultural features of State parks and other State lands;
3. To promote communication among the general public, other government agencies, and the administrators of State parks;
4. To inquire into matters of community interest relating to State parks and outdoor recreation; to bring matters of interest to the attention of the public;
5. To appear and testify at public and legislative hearings as representatives of State parks users and neighbors;
6. To make recommendations to the Director of the Division of Parks and
Outdoor Recreation concerning, among other things, the following:
(a) promoting the protection and enhancement of the State's historic and recreational resources,
(b) promoting the interpretation and public presentation of the natural and human history of park lands,
(c) increasing public awareness of human impacts on parks,
(d) promoting orderly and consistent planning development and management programs for State parks and cultural and outdoor recreation resources,
(e) identifying diverse public recreation uses,
(f) mitigating conflicts among user groups.
To join the CAB, please download and submit an application.
Friends of Kodiak State Parks
The Friends of Kodiak State Parks sponsor the Fort Abercrombie Summer Naturalist Program and other community events such as fun runs and the annual Mud Ball. The Friends of Kodiak State Parks also work hard at park enhancement projects and trail maintenance. Members receive a 10% discount on purchases at the Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park visitor center book store.
To join the Friends of Kodiak State Parks, please mail your check of $20 made out to:
Friends of Kodiak State Parks
1400 Abercrombie Dr.
Kodiak, AK 99615
100% of your tax deductible donations and membership fees will be utilized for the enhancement of State Parks in the Kodiak region.