In Alaska, heavyweight contest among bears

published on Thursday, October 06, 2022 at 00:24

As America begins to binge on candy for Halloween, Alaska is also celebrating the fat… while saving the environment, thanks to the election of the biggest bear in the state, organized this week to make the public aware of the protection of this animal.

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

Of the more than 2,000 specimens in the region, which can exceed 550 kilos, only the most beautiful specimens compete in this clash of titans.

Who will win this year? The defending champion, Otis, already four times champion; 747, a cushy capable of occupying an entire row in a Boeing; or a new, even more voracious suitor?

Basically it doesn’t matter, given the exponential success of the competition. From a few thousand votes when it was created in 2014, the contest has provided more than 800,000 fans in 2021.

“This is an awareness event for Alaskan brown bears. (…) We want this awareness to raise awareness for these animals in people,” its creator Mike Fitz told AFP. former Katmai National Park ranger.

The public can observe the candidates in their salmon fishing, thanks to the cameras of Explore, an NGO for the defense of the environment. The opportunity to learn a little more about brown bears and their incredible surrender.

Because the “ursus arctos” does not permanently retain its stature as a wrestler. In the spring, he is famous, his figure seems rather cut for Fashion Week. But during summer and fall, bears in the park gain up to 50% of their body weight.

A crucial mass gain before their hibernation. For five months, the bears go into hiding and never wake up, not even to drink or spit anything up. Thanks to the stimulating fat, they feed on the recycled proteins of their own urea, and retain their muscle mass.

According to Mr Fitz, a bear in the park can swallow “more than 45 kilos” of salmon in a single day. Enough to exhaust even the hungriest of sushi lovers.

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

Their population is abundant in Alaska, but “on most of the west coast of North America, salmon migration hangs by a thread”, recalls Mr. Fitz.

In California or Oregon, they are threatened by “habitat loss (…) and dams. And climate change is exacerbating the problem, with drought and heat waves.”

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