Katmai National Park Crowns its Fattest Bear During 4th Annual Fat Bear Week

October 12, 2018

Alaska’s Katmai National park has crowned a beautiful Alaskan Brown Bear as the park’s “Fattest Bear” during it’s 4th annual Fat Bear Week. 409 Beadnose (her full name), mother of four litters of cubs, won in a landslide victory over 747. Fat Bear Week ended on October 8 aka Fat Bear Tuesday according to the Fat Bear Week itinerary. Despite the odds weighing heavily in favor of Beadnose; the championship tilt was highly anticipated.

The March-Madness-style tournament was made up of 12 guys and gals with a considerable Body Mass Index. The bears were broadcasted live throughout the summer on Katmai’s live bear cam. The Katmai staff monitored over 2,000 bears before selecting the final 12 to compete in the tournament. Pictures were captured and posted onto the bear’s bio. Online users were asked to vote on Katmai’s Facebook page, on what they perceived to be the fattest bear. The bears are not weighed, it is a contest scaled by the eye test and perhaps likeability (the Facebook comments get chippy but not quite grisly).

In the end, Beadnose ran away (or maybe sat) with the competition. Beadnose amassed 6,300 likes on Facebook while 747 was only able to collect 2,800 likes. Fans like Shaun Patrick LaForty commented “Gotta go with Beadnose on this one. Raising two cubs and still has time to work on her figure!” Can’t argue with that.

Like any prize fight; this bout supplied plenty of controversies “I would like to remind everyone that Beadnose is sitting down, which gives her an optical advantage. Please vote wisely #747” pleaded Facebook user Sofie Hellen.

Despite the landslide, it was a tough decision for some voters. Peggy Stewart commented it was a “tough, tough decision between the ‘chunkalicious’ Beadnose and the undeniable ‘thunderlicious’ 747.”

Beadnose became a fan favorite when followers heard her story. Documentation states she has delivered at least four litters of cubs. “When she is not raising cubs, this bear is usually one of the fattest females in the fall,” the Bears of Brooks Rivers 2018 explains. “Raising offspring is very energetically taxing for bears. Females with offspring must sacrifice body fat to raise cubs.” The book also notes, “she’s an independent woman after emancipating her cubs early in the season, and she was able to keep all that salmon for herself,” sponsored Andrew Lavalle, a Katmai park ranger. “And she’s looking quite pudgy because of it.”

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Meanwhile, Bear 747 grew popularity because he harnesses a gut that flirts with the ground as he waddles down the banks of Brooks River. Ecologist Mike Fitz witnessed 747 devour 15 salmon in three hours. “That’s about 67,000 calories,” Fitz points out. Bear 747’s hype-poster notes “few bears challenge 747 for the best fishing spots.”

Fitz, a former Katmai ranger, lobbied heavily for 747. “Bear 747 is an adult male in the prime of his life,” Fitz wrote on his blog. “First identified as a subadult bear in 2004, he’s matured into the largest bear I’ve ever seen.” Lavalle attested to Fitz’s claims “The belly clearance with the ground is the thing that really stands out to me about 747, it almost drags. He seems to be more of a hippopotamus than bear at times.”  Lavalle also noted “747 is certainly a strong contender for that distinction. This year, at times, he looks completely ovular.”

The efforts of the large beers may seem more carefree than admirable; however, there are methods to the madness. Lavalle compliments 747’s efforts to achieve his bulky aspirations “He, like many of our more dominant bears, has learned that patience is key and to simply let the fish come to you. Do not expend calories trying to chase them.”

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The bears will often only gobble down the eggs, brains, and skin of the salmon; these parts of the fish provide the most calories. Bears can gain up to four pounds daily due to the space in their stomachs.  

The indulgence is in preparation for hibernation months. “Like miners looking for high-grade Orem; bears try to consume high-grade fat,” Katmai National park explains. Bears experience hyperphagia during the summer, which instinctively leads to hunger and allows them to store body fat during winter hibernation.

Lavalle said 2018 had been Fat Bear Week’s biggest year. “I think it’s a little bit silly, it’s fun, and in some aspects of our culture, we need that at this juncture,” he said. Fans rallied around bears and created bandwagons. No question, this competition has brought awareness to the wellbeing of wildlife and fans are already looking forward to next year. “It’s something we can all get behind – protecting and cherishing these really majestic wild animals,” explained Lavalle.

“The whole point of it is to really educate the public – this is a struggle for survival for these bears,” Lavalle added. “They’re going to lose one-third of their body weight in hibernation, and so that’s why they’re eating as much as they are, just cause they have to gain all that weight back that they’re going to lose in the winter.”

Fat Beer week has ended, but Katmai will run its live bear cam for a couple more weeks.