Hey gang, here we are at the brown bear habitat at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center.
It is important to the AWCC to have wild, natural spaces for our animals, and the brown bear exhibit currently settling in at just over 14 acres is the largest bear exhibit in all of the United States.
At AWCC we have representation from two brown bear populations: both the Coastal Brown Bears and the Grizzly Brown Bears. In the state of Alaska, we actually have three major sub-groups of brown bears: Grizzly Bears, Coastal Brown Bears, and the Kodiak Brown Bear.
What’s the difference between brown bears and grizzly bears? In Alaska, we distinguish between the two due to geographic locations and differences in diet. When using the terms, however, they are representing the same species. Bears that live along the coast are known as coastal or brown bears. They tend to be much larger due to their massive consumption of protein in the form of salmon during the large summer salmon runs upriver. Interior bears, like those found in Denali National Park, are smaller due to their varied diet of roots, berries, and small mammals.
The size of brown bears varies dramatically from region to region in Alaska, due to selective pressures regarding food resources. At peak body condition in the fall, boars (males) from interior regions may weigh up to 600 pounds while exceptional boars from coastal areas and Kodiak may reach 1,500 pounds. Sows (females) usually weigh about half of the weight of males in any given region.
A brown bear weighs approximately 1 pound at birth. Like their cousin the black bears, brown bears also display delayed implantation where the fertilized embryos do not implant in the female’s uterine wall until she enters her den in the fall time. Bears are not true hibernators, and can spontaneously arouse if disturbed, or likely did not consume enough calories to stay down for the entire winter season.
There are an estimated 30,000-35,000 brown bears in Alaska, which amounts to 98% of the U.S. population and 70% of the North American population. We sure love our bears!