Kodiak Island is home to only a small handful of indigenous mammals. Most prominent of these is of course the Kodiak brown bear (Ursos arctos middendorffi), but visitors are more likely to spot the island's fox. These comparatively tiny predators appear throughout the island, but as wild creatures are wary of humans and should not be approached. Though hikers have nothing to fear from these animals, they should be aware that the rustling heard in the grasses is probably a fox or a deer rather than a bear. Fox tracks are unique among the island's mammals.
There is no better picture in my possession than the one depicted here showing most plainly the thickness of Kodiak's vegetation. Trees are relatively scarce on the island, but tall grasses, salmonberry bushes, fiddlehead fern, the various types of alder and other assorted verdure are the dominant plant species on the island. Uniform heights of six feet are common in summer, with alder trebling the norm. The ATV trail in the photo is almost reclaimed by the jungle, and even on this fairly worn course the hiker's pace falls to 1 mph even on flat terrain. If for whatever reason your trek forces you into the bush, expect to measure your hourly progress in hundreds of yards only.
Kodiak Island is covered for hundreds of square miles in compositions that will sink you up to your knees. Only where vegetation is extensive can you be sure of durable footing, but the vegetation itself improves your obstacles. Along creeks and rivers where the vegetation is uniform (i.e. of one or two species), be especially certain of your step-by-step footing. It is not likely that you will drown in either the creeks or the soft sands of the island, but a wrenched knee or a twisted ankle is waiting for the unprepared.
Hiking in Kodiak is often more toilsome than tittilating. Even when trails are established, the footing confronts countless challenges and obstacles. Bad weather and fog (common adjuncts of Kodiak society) make for poor visibility and sometimes reduce the experience to an interminable hardship. Understanding that numerous foes stand in your path better prepares you for the trail, and helps you to appreciate the gauntlet you have overcome.
Whether you know it by the name "cow parsnip," "wild celery" or "pootschki" (the Russian word), this noxious plant combined with direct sunshine can cause a skin irritation similar to that from poison ivy. Wearing longsleeves and pants can prevent the rash if you are particularly susceptible to such problems. Otherwise, this plant is easy to knock over if you are hiking in the wild. Even at six feet tall, the central stems will go down with one blow -- just make sure a brown bear is not lunching on its succulent neighbors.
Though the exact number is unknown, Kodiak Island is home to some 2,500 to 3,000 brown bears (a 0.7-0.8 per square mile population density). Even with such overwhelming numbers, sightings are still uncommon. The bears generally keep away from developed roads and ATV trails, preferring instead the dense cover of the wildlife refuge that covers two-thirds of the island. If you never happen to see a bear, you might yet come across their tracks. Take good measurements (width of print, distance from pad to toe, toe to claw and length of stride, if possible -- generally not). Tables exist that can give you a fair estimate of the size of the bear. The tracks depicted here were not measured, but each toe was as large and as smooth as a hard-boiled egg (large eggs).
Slugs aren't really a warning and danger. But in the summer in Kodiak you might want to watch your step if it's been raining alot as all of the sidewalks and driveways and trails will be covered in them. Some people don't like that squishy feeling under their feet!! For us locals they can wreak havoc in our vegetable and flower gardens!
The feeding of Wild Animals isn't allowed. You may be fined if you are caught! It also makes the the animals dependant on humans for food and they get lazy about hunting for their natural food.
When you are hiking in the summer time you will encounter alot of bees that are pollinating our local flowers. So if you are allergic to these beeware that they can BEE around!