Mama bears have more than their fair share of porridge
AN ALASKAN brown bear, known as 409 Beadnose, had her hands full with two cubs in the summer of 2016. They remained at her side when she emerged from hibernation last year and set about fishing for sockeye salmon in Katmai National Park and Preserve. In other words, Beadnose was sharing the spoils.
Not this year. In the lingo of wildlife biologists, she “emancipated” those cubs, and this spring she emerged from a long winter’s snooze a lithe empty-nester. After a summer stuffing her maw with salmon that were hers and hers alone, Beadnose has the blubber to show for it.
On Tuesday, that remarkable expansion made
409 Beadnose, a name that combines her official, park-assigned number and a moniker inspired by her upturned snout, the winner of Katmai’s fourth annual Fat Bear Week contest. The battle played out on Facebook, where pairs of photos of bear bods, all regulars at the Brooks River buffet, were pitted side-byside, and the winner of each round was the one that got the most likes.
“Bears must eat one year’s worth of food in six short months to survive hibernation, and 409 has excelled at that,” the park wrote in a Facebook post announcing her victory over a beastly brown named 747. “Her radiant rolls were deemed by the voting public to be this year’s most fabulous flab.”
It was a second victory for Beadnose, who took home the trophy in 2015, the event’s first year as a week-long contest. Her many fans rejoiced. “We ladies needed the win! Yeah, mama bear!” one Facebook commenter wrote. “Yaaaaass! Bow before the absolute unit queen!” wrote another.
It wasn’t totally fair, given that the photographs, most taken by park staff, were not all shot from the same angle. Beadnose, for example, was seated in her end-of-summer portrait in a girth-accentuating position that some observers compared to a Hershey’s Kiss, while other bears were shown standing. Some final photos were taken a few weeks after others, giving their subjects more time to gorge.
“The reality is, unless we got all the bears to line up in a single-file line on the same day, we’re not going to have the exact same photos,” said Andrew LaValle, a Katmai park ranger who runs the contest. He joked that he would try, “but the bears haven’t responded to my phone calls”.
They were probably too busy on the small Brooks River, an upstream bottleneck for hundreds of thousands of the 62 million salmon that passed through Alaska’s Bristol Bay this year, LaValle said.
There, the bears easily snatch the fish, then promptly massacre them for the fattiest parts, the skin, fat and brain, before nonchalantly discarding the flesh.
About 2 000 brown bears live in Katmai, where they also eat berries, vegetation and other animals, but the Brooks River bears are the stars. They ply their trade next to a viewing platform and on a webcam hosted by explore.org, where their belly flops and occasional salmon-stealing are streamed live. – Washington Post
A shaggy, brown and possibly pregnant mother bear known as 409 Beadnose, crowned on Tuesday as Fattest Bear of 2018, is seen on the bank of Brooks River in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska. PICTURES: REUTERS
A brown bear named “480 Otis” hunts for salmon, before winter hibernation on the Brooks River in the Katmai National Park.