Fat Bear Week 2019: Alaska’s Katmai National Park’s fattest brown bear is up to you

America: There’s rather a lot occurring proper now. President Trump is dealing with attainable impeachment for turning “American overseas coverage into an extortion racket,” as Vox’s Zack Beauchamp put it. In the meantime, the 2020 presidential main is looming, the oceans have gotten hostile to life, and a recession may very well be across the nook.

What an anxious time to be alive!

It’s additionally a good time to take pleasure in a nationwide treasure: The superb and fats bears of Katmai Nationwide Park in Alaska. Fats Bear Week is again, child.

Over the previous week, the workers of Katmai Nationwide Park have been asking individuals to vote, March Insanity-style, on which bear has grown the fattest over the summer time. The park has posted image matchups of bear pairs on its Fb web page, and also you, loyal citizen, get to decide on which one seems to be fattest.

In the present day is the final day of voting, and the competition is down to 2 “bodacious beauties,” because the Park’s Fb web page places it.

Ought to the crown go to Holly? (Use the picture slider to see what she seemed like in July versus September.)

Katmai Nationwide Park

(A bit on Holly: In keeping with her Nationwide Park Service bio, Holly is legendary for adopting an deserted cub in 2015. “Adoption of cubs by bears may be very uncommon,” the park describes. “Bears are usually egocentric creatures who usually are not recognized for shows of altruism.” However but Holly discovered it in her coronary heart to handle a lonesome cub.)

Or ought to or not it’s Grazer?

Katmai Nationwide Park

(Grazer, additionally a feminine, is thought for being “one of the crucial expert bears to fish the lip of Brooks Fall,” the park notes. The male bears are inclined to get one of the best fishing spots. However Grazer compensates with skillful catching.)

Vote on Katmai’s Fb web page by “liking” the picture of the bear you suppose should win. The winner shall be topped on October eight (or what the park calls “Fats Bear Tuesday.”) Full disclosure: I’m rooting for Holly. Simply have a look at her.

This yearly contest started in 2014, and yearly it turns into much more of a viral sensation.

We’re unhappy to report that final yr’s winner, Beadnose (see her chunky glory right here), isn’t returning to the competitors. As Mashable reviews, Beadnose hasn’t been seen within the park this yr. She was 20 years outdated — outdated for a brown bear. So it’s attainable she died over the winter. “She’s lived a wealthy life, having raised 4 litters of cubs,” Mashable reviews. Nonetheless, it stings. If she died, she went out on high, and that’s honorable.

Fats bear week is enjoyable. However the science can also be fascinating.

To be clear, this isn’t about fat-shaming, a press launch from Katmai insists. It’s a celebration of life. “There is no such thing as a disgrace in successful this contest as massive quantities of physique fats in brown bears is indicative of fine well being and powerful possibilities of survival [over the winter],” the park says.

Each summer time, lots of of hundreds of scrumptious, calorie-dense salmon swim up the Brooks River inside Katmai, a sparsely visited protect the place stark volcanic panorama meets the ocean on the Alaskan Peninsula, to spawn. However additionally they inevitably encounter among the park’s 2,200 brown bears, who, round July, enter right into a state of hyperphagia — a.ok.a. consuming nonstop.

When the bears hibernate for the winter, they could lose a 3rd of this weight. So fats bears in autumn imply wholesome bears who’ll make it by way of the winter.

As Outdoors journal explains, there’s rather a lot we don’t perceive in regards to the science of bear hibernation. However we do know that “bears are so good at packing on fats (whereas remaining unusually proof against plaque buildup within the arteries) and barely transferring for months (with out a lot muscle or bone deterioration),” Outdoors’s Erin Berger writes. Because of this “many researchers are concerned about our ursine pals for functions in long-term house flight or medical points just like the atrophying results of lengthy hospital stays.”

And know: The bears aren’t simply gorging mindlessly. There’s technique right here. They’ll typically simply eat the pores and skin, eggs, and brains of the salmon — probably the most calorie-dense elements of the fish. “Like miners on the lookout for high-grade ore, bears attempt to devour high-grade fats,” Katmai Nationwide Park explains. And although there’s solely a lot house within the bears’ stomachs, they will add as much as 4 kilos of weight a day.

Every summer time, all of us can watch this switch of power alongside the meals chain by way of a particularly common Discover.org livestream. The livestream is helpful since few guests make all of it the best way to Katmai. In 2017, it noticed 37,818 guests; Yellowstone Nationwide Park, for comparability, noticed greater than four.1 million guests.

The livecam is even streaming proper now.

The New Yorker journal as soon as known as the video feed “a spot of zen,” capturing “the serendipitous feeling of catching a glimpse of wildlife out the window.” See for your self. At the very least, it’s a pleasant calming factor to observe whereas procrastinating at work.

Whereas the world is drastically altering for the more severe as a consequence of local weather change, it’s good to trace wildlife that seems to be doing precisely what it’s alleged to do.