National Wildlife Refuges

Fat Bear Diet Plan

Alaska bruins share their secrets for packing on the pounds

A female brown bear walks into the grass with a flopping salmon in her mouth.
A female brown bear walks into the grass with a flopping salmon in her mouth.
A female Kodiak brown bear brings a freshly caught sockeye salmon to shore. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.
A bear lying on her back with paws in the air and one paw over her eyes.
A bear lying on her back with paws in the air and one paw over her eyes.
A female brown bear rests after eating. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.

How do they do it?

Aerial photo of a large school of sockeye salmon in shallow waters.
Aerial photo of a large school of sockeye salmon in shallow waters.
Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge habitat supports nearly 40% of the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon run, the largest sustainable sockeye fishery in the world. The refuge also supports a healthy population of large coastal brown bears! Credit: Courtesy of Jeff Jones.

Tip 1: Eat your greens

A female brown bear with a mouthful of green sedges in a meadow.
A female brown bear with a mouthful of green sedges in a meadow.
Brown bear with a mouth full of sedges. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.
A small brown bear cub leans into a large green leaf with mouth open.
A small brown bear cub leans into a large green leaf with mouth open.
Brown bear cub moving in to snack on cow parsnip. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.

Tip 2: Fish heads fish heads roly poly fish heads

A small brown bear cub looks at the camera with a fish head held in its mouth.
A small brown bear cub looks at the camera with a fish head held in its mouth.
Brown bear cub with a fish head. Brains are a dense source of energy for bears intent on getting the most calories for their mouthfuls. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.
A video sequence shows several short clips of brown bears catching jumping salmon in their mouths, then eating them by stripping the skin and chomping on the bellies. Filmed at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge during the middle of the summer. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.

Tip 3: Always eat dessert

Ripe blueberries in short tundra fall foliage.
Ripe blueberries in short tundra fall foliage.
Alpine blueberry and crowberry plants. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.
Bright red clusters of berries on a green shrub.
Ripe red elderberries in Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. These berries combine both protein and sugar for an ideal bear snack recipe. Credit: Caroline Cheung/USFWS.

Tip 4: Feast from the sea

Aerial view of many water channels merging into the ocean, with mudflats and estuary grasses in between.
A coastal delta where a glacial river meets the sea. Bear paths criss-cross the inter-tidal zone, where tasty finds include invertebrates, clams, and the occasional whale or other marine mammal that washes ashore. Credit: Steve Hillebrand/USFWS.
a close up view of a female brown bear looking large and fluffy.
An adult female Kodiak brown bear. Credit: Lisa Hupp/USFWS.

Stories from Alaska by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service