For bears, fatter is always better, and on Tuesday, 409 Beadnose showed the other bruins of Katmai National Park and Preserve who’s large and in charge.
Yesterday concluded its 5th annual Fat Bear Week, a tournament where fans worldwide and vote on the massive weight gain of the park’s bear residents.
For the park’s animal residents, packing on the pounds is as functional as it is fun. Bears have to consume a year’s worth of food in under six months in order to last them through hibernation, and their best bet is the fat-dense flesh of sockeye salmon. Fat molecules contain six times more calories than carbs and provide clean energy: Bears can burn through reserves to stay hydrated and keep the den warm without aggregating unhygienic waste.
Packing on the rolls is especially important for females like 409 Beadnose. This independent, millennial giantess has already raised four litters, and she and her fellow sows are already getting ready for the next batch: Brown bear mating occurs in late spring, but fertilized embryos wait for hibernation to implant and begin to grow. Aside from the mothers’ own survival, the size and number of cubs, born during hibernation, is directly dependent on their rotund rolls.
Emotions were rampant last night as 409 Beadnose ousted 747—one of the most dominant males in the community—in a final lumpy joust for the title. Fans continue to duel over social media with eloquent arguments and ursine love letters. As for the bears, they’ll keep on scouring the falls before retreating to their dens in a few weeks. It’s a feast or famine world, after all.