Every year, Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve holds Fat Bear Week, where contestants post pictures of the fattest bears they’ve photographed to Facebook, with one lucky bear being deemed champion.
This year, “409 Beadnose” beat out fellow bear competitor “747” (yes, like the jumbo jet) to take the crown as the fattest bear during the Fat Bear Week contest.
Park staff commented on Facebook that Beadnose’s “radiant rolls were deemed by the voting public to be this year’s most fabulous flab.”
But this contest isn’t about fat-shaming – it’s about survival.
“Our chubby champ has a few more weeks to chow down on lingering salmon carcasses before she heads up the mountains to dig herself a den and savor her victory,” the staff noted.
Beadnose and 747 are both part of the Brooks River bears, who have become celebrities of a sort with fans of the park. A webcam streams live video to thousands of viewers who can watch the bears swim, eat and play.
The competition aims to educate the public on bears and shows how much efforts bears have to put towards bulking up before hibernating through the winter. Bears eat pretty much non-stop when late summer hits to survive the winter.
“This might be entertaining, especially with these beautiful majestic animals, but this is a life-or-death struggle,” said Andrew LaValle, a ranger at Katmai and the person responsible for most of their social media posts.
There are 2,000 bears in Katmai who will hibernate this winter and lose a third of their body weight. Luckily, the preserve has a well-stocked river so there is plenty of salmon to plump up the bears before they take the long snooze.
When the bears get tired of eating salmon, they can also eat berries, vegetation and other animals.