Left Menu
Development News Edition

CORRECTED-Fat is fabulous for bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park

Reuters | Alaska | Updated: 10-10-2019 00:09 IST | Created: 10-10-2019 00:08 IST
CORRECTED-Fat is fabulous for bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Alaska grizzly bears packing on pounds (kilos) for the winter are competing for more than the season's last salmon. They are also vying for the title of the state's fattest bear. Fat Bear Week has become a national internet sensation, pitting individual bears against each other in an online voting contest. This year's event, organized by Katmai National Park and Preserve, started with 12 bears.

Their photos have been displayed on Facebook for online voters to examine. As of Monday morning, the remaining contenders were Lefty, Grazer and Holly, a bear that gained fame a few years ago for adopting an abandoned cub. The process of elimination concludes with a final round and a champion selected on Tuesday.

At Katmai, a park in southwestern Alaska known for its bountiful salmon runs and the huge grizzlies - Alaskans call them "brown bears" - that feed on them, Fat Bear Week is an annual highlight. "It's something that appreciates fatness," said Naomi Boak, a conservancy media ranger at Katmai.

Katmai's bears need to build body mass before retreating to their hibernation dens in late October or early November. In summer, the bears congregate at the park's Brooks River to gorge on salmon. By the time they are ready to waddle into the mountains for their winter sleep, male grizzlies can tip the scales at over 1,000 pounds (454 kg), and females at more than 600 pounds (272 kg). They need that heft. During hibernation, rangers say, bears typically lose about a third of their body weight.

"They work so hard to be so fat to survive the winter," Boak said.

FAT-WORSHIPPING FUN

The weeklong contest started in 2014 as a one-day event called Fat Bear Tuesday. Park officials expanded it the following year. More than just fat-worshiping fun, the celebration is a valuable way to promote the park and educate the public, Boak said. She noted that schools from as far away as the East Coast have incorporated Fat Bear Week into their curriculum. "What a great way to get students excited about the natural world," she said.

This year's heavyweight contenders, still plucking salmon out of Brooks River, have had plentiful food supply, Boak said. But Alaska's warming trend, including its just-ended, record-hot summer, might be interfering with the bears' eating habits. When Katmai's July temperatures approached 90 F degrees (32.2 Celsius), bears stopped fishing and started trying to beat the heat, not easy for fat animals with thick, shaggy coats, Boak said. "There was a lot of lying down in the water," she said.

Salmon were affected, too. For a while, Boak said, salmon lingered downstream in a lake cooled by glacial melt, avoiding the excessively warm waters of Brooks River. "When we had that heat wave in July, we had zero salmon," she said. When the heat moderated, the fish resumed their upstream swim, and Brooks River had "wall-to-wall salmon," she said.

Even bear fans who miss the chance to vote for their fat favorites will have other opportunities to keep tabs on the Katmai's most charismatic critters. Non-profit explore.org operates a live-stream "bear cam" that attracts millions of viewers each year.


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

Post-COVID-19 Nigeria needs a robust Health Management Information System to handle high disease burden

Nigeria is among a few countries that conceptualised a health management information system HMIS in the early 90s but implementation has been a challenge till date. Besides COVID-19, the country has a huge burden of communicable and non-com...

Morocco COVID-19 response: A fragile health system and the deteriorating situation

Learning from its European neighbors, Morocco imposed drastic measures from the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak to try to contain its spread. The strategy worked for a few months but the cases have surged after mid-June. In this sit...

COVID-19: Argentina’s health system inefficiencies exaggerate flaws of health information system

You can recover from a drop in the GDP, but you cant recover from death, was the straightforward mindset of Argentinas President Alberto Fernndez and defined the countrys response to COVID-19. The South American nation imposed a strict...

Rwanda’s COVID-19 response commendable but health information system needs improvement

Rwanda is consistently working to improve its health information system from many years. However, it is primarily dependent on the collection and reporting of health data on a monthly basis. Besides, evaluation studies on Rwandas HIS publis...

Videos

Latest News

"Singing moon," S P Balasubrahmanyam laid to rest with state honours

Versatile singer, actor and music composer S P Balasubrahmanyam hailed as singing moon by his millions of fans was laid to rest at his farm house near here on Saturday with a 24-gun salute by Tamil Nadu police. After the singers son S P Cha...

Delhi govt looks at converting temporary posts into permanent ones

The Delhi government has asked all its departments to provide details of temporary posts under their jurisdiction, which can be converted into permanent ones, taking into account the nature of work. The AAP governments finance department ha...

Rajnath Singh launches author Krishna Saksena's 'A bouquet of flowers'

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday launched A bouquet of flowers, a book written by author Krishna Saksena, here at his residence. A bouquet of flowers, Saksenas ninth book, is a bold look into the inner workings of society, especia...

US moves to restrict stay of Chinese journalists to 90 days

The Trump Administration is seeking to restrict the stay of journalists from China in the US to just 90 days with the provision of another extension for a similar duration, according to a federal notification. The Trump administrations move...

Give Feedback