Kodiak is composed of mountains, forests, bays, inlets and wetlands. The refuge comprises about two-thirds of Kodiak Island. In addition, the refuge encompasses a portion of Afognak Island (50,000 acres) north of Kodiak Island. Kodiak Island has an irregular coastline of bays, insets, and rugged mountains covered with alpine vegetation.
Spruce forests dominate the northern part of Kodiak Island and all of the Afognak Island portion of the refuge. The interior of the refuge is covered with lush, dense vegetation. Southwestern Kodiak is covered with hummocks (knolls) of grass. No place on the 100 X 40 mile island is more than 15 miles from the sea. Kodiak NWR was established in 1941 to protect the habitat of the brown bear.
Beside the brown bear there are at least five other native land mammals on Kodiak: red fox, river otter, short-tailed weasle, little brown bat, and tundra vole. Black-tailed deer, beaver and several other species of mammals have been successfully introduced to the island. Bald eagles reside year-round on the refuge in such numbers that they are in view continuously. An estimated two million seabirds inhabit the bays, inlets, and shores.
Kodiak is known worldwide for brown bear hunting. Fishing is excellent for all five species of Pacific Salmon. Wildlife observation, photography, rafting, and camping are popular activities. The island is served by commercial flights and the Alaska Ferry system. A limited number of cabins are available.
Frequently Asked Questions About the New Kodiak Refuge Visitor Center
Why is the Refuge constructing a new visitor center?
Environmental education and interpretation are two of the priority public uses of our national wildlife refuges. Given the fact that Kodiak Refuge is so remote, Fish and Wildlife Service managers and staff
felt that we could serve a greater portion of the public by constructing a visitor center in
the City of Kodiak to bring the Refuge to the public. The Center will also better serve the
environmental education needs of the community.
How big is it?
The visitor center will be a two-story structure with approximately 8,000 square feet of floor space.
How much will the new visitor center cost?
The entire project budget is approximately $8.2 million. That includes land acquisition; demolition of the former building on the site; architectural and engineering design work; construction of the building; landscaping; interpretive exhibit design, fabrication, and installation; and furnishings.
Why is it downtown?
Locating the visitor center downtown complements existing education and information venues, such as the Alutiiq Museum & Archeological Repository, Baranov MuseumKodiak Historical Society, the Kodiak Island Convention & Visitor and Bureau, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Office and the Kodiak Maritime Museum. This downtown site also provides easy access to the Alaska Marine Highway
Ferry dock at which many summer visitors arrive.
What will I see in the visitor center?
The center will be a welcoming place for both the local community and the visiting public from around the world. The exhibit hall features educational exhibits that highlight the Kodiak brown bear and the wider ecological tapestry on which these complex animals depend. Specific installations will include: a river ecology exhibit featuring the Karluk watershed and all 5 species of salmon; a denning exhibit where
visitors can listen to the heartbeat of a hibernating bear; a bird exhibit featuring some of the myriad of bird life that call the Refuge home and their varying habitat from coastal waters to high alpine. The Center will also feature a map room and trip planning area, 700 square-foot multipurpose room, open-air observation deck, an Alaska Natural History Association bookstore and will be the home of the Kodiak Gray Whale Project.
Are there real animals in the exhibits?
Within the exhibit hall, all the animals represented will be sculpted (much like bronze sculptures) from durable synthetic materials. At Discovery Points throughout the Center, visitors will have the experience of touching real skins and skulls from bears and a variety of other mammals, both terrestrial
and marine. Also, in the upper lobby, visitors will have the opportunity to look eye to eye
with a re-articulated gray whale skeleton which spans 36-feet.
There are many reasons why sculpted renderings were chosen for the many bears, birds, fish and plant life which will fill our exhibit hall. The exhibits tell the life story of the great Kodiak brown bear and the other animals and plants that comprise the biological community within the refuge. With that in mind, there are month-old bear cubs with a lactating mother bear in the den, cubs of the year fishing with a mother bear, and a male bear standing tall in curiosity. To obtain real bear hides for taxidermy mounts, live bears would have been euthanized/killed for the sole purpose of creating these exhibits. Wildlife sculptures
are widely used in exhibits that deal with young animals and females of a species. As a
conservation organization we choose to contract with exhibit company artists to sculpt
very detailed animals for the exhibits, with education the end goal. Secondly, these exhibit
elements will be durable and touchable throughout the life of the exhibits (20+ years).
Can I have a meeting there?
Subject to availability and staff constraints, we anticipate offering the multipurpose room for federal, state, and local governments for meetings and public events. Private meetings will be accommodated when space is available and when meeting purpose is appropriate to the Center mission.
When is it going to open?
It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007. If all goes as planned
it may open as early as mid October.
What are the hours of operation?
We anticipate the following schedule. Summer hours (Memorial Day to Labor Day) open seven days a week 9am to 6pm. Off-season hours (fall, winter, spring) open Tuesday through Saturday 9am to 5pm but closed on federal holidays.
Is there a charge to visit the center?
Admission is FREE!
For more information, contact Tina_Shaw@fws.gov by email, or phone at 907-942-0322.