Alaska heavyweight competition

As America starts eating candy at Halloween, Alaska is also celebrating fat… while saving the environment, thanks to this week’s poll of the state’s largest bear. To educate the public about the protection of this animal.

Every year Katmai National Park hosts “Fat Bear Week”. Everyone can vote online for the biggest brown bears in this volcanic region, populated by salmon swimming in the Brooks River.

Of the more than 2,000 specimens in the area, which can exceed 550 kilograms, only the most beautiful specimens compete in this clash of giants.

Who will win this year? The defending champion, Otis, is a four-time champion already; 747, a cushion capable of occupying an entire row in a Boeing aircraft; Or a new, more voracious suitor?

Basically it does not matter, given the accelerated success of the competition. Out of a few thousand votes when it was created in 2014, the competition attracted more than 800,000 fans in 2021.

“This is an awareness event for brown bears in Alaska. (…) We hope that this awareness will lead to greater awareness of these animals in humans “, its creator Mike Fitz, former ranger of Katmai National Park, explains to AFP.

The public can monitor salmon fishing candidates, thanks to the cameras of Explore, an environmental NGO. A chance to learn more about brown bears and their amazing metabolism.

Because “ursus arctos” does not permanently retain its position as a gladiator. In the spring, he’s starving, and his figure seems to be somewhat cut for Fashion Week. But during summer and autumn, bears in the garden gain up to 50% of their body weight.

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Decisive mass gain before hibernation. For five months, the bears hide and never wake up, not even to drink or spit out anything. Thanks to the accumulated fat, they feed on recycled proteins from their own urea, retaining their muscle mass.

According to Mr. Fitz, a park bear can swallow “more than 45 kilos” of salmon in a single day. Enough to tire even the most hungry sushi lover.

The contest is also an opportunity to highlight the importance of these migratory fish.

Its population is plentiful in Alaska, but “for most of the west coast of North America, the salmon migration is hanging by a thread,” Mr. Fitz recalls.

In California or Oregon, they are threatened by “the loss of their habitat (…) and dams. Climate change is exacerbating the problem, along with droughts and heat waves.”

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