Alaska brown bears are world-renown for their immense size. Alaska brown bears are also known to eat hundreds upon hundreds of salmon in preparation for winter hibernation. I didn’t think any of us quite expected to see the before and after photos coming from Katmai national Park and Preserve! (Spoiler: We will show you who goes head to head for the championship at the bottom).
In celebration of these blubber bouncing bruins, the park allowed fans to vote for their favorite fatty on their Facebook page. If you missed the chance to vote, you can still take a peek at the photos below and try to not let your jaw drop at these transformations.
The bears that live in Katmai are studied and tracked very accurately by park officials and the information gleaned on each bear is quite astounding. Family trees, relations, offspring, and individual bear numbering is just some of what the scientists at Katmai are tracking in regards to their large furry residents.
Take bear 409, more warmly referred to as ‘Beadnose’, for example. This bear has been tracked since she was initially classified as a sub-adult in 1999, according to this extensively documented page found here. Taking a peek at this site gives a clear example of closely the bear population is monitored.
Speaking of Beadnose…here is her summer to fall body transformation courtesy of Katmai NPS (psst! These bears can add up to four pounds of body weight per day!):
So what’s causing these bears to gain so much weight? Well, according to Katmai officials, bears may lose up to 1/3 of their body mass over the winter, so they naturally have to bulk up before their chief supply of food dies off, which is the natural run of sockeye salmon. How many sockeye salmon? Well, roughly 62 million of these fish came through Bristol Bay in 2018.
Another early contender in the fat bear contest was bear 503. Despite this enormous weight gain, this bear was eliminated in the first round of the competition!
Adding several hundred pounds to their frame in a matter of weeks (literally, we are talking hundreds of pounds here), is no easy task! This is almost non-stop feeding on some of the best fat and proteins available in mother nature. These photos are certainly a testament to the quality food that these bears are finding in nature.
Given a bye in the first round, this tubby titan went head to head with his female counterpart, and got steamrolled by Beadnose (pictured above)!
Aptly named ‘Chunk’, bear 32 who calls Katmai National Park home is the very essence of what we would call a ‘belly-dragger’. One look at this extremely rotund specimen might make you think that a bear this incredibly fat couldn’t possibly be one-upped by any of the fellow fisherman vying for each and every sockeye that passes them by. Though Chunk started out a bit portly and gained a considerably amount of weight on top of that, this is one of the Alaska brown bears that was ousted in the semi-finals by one even larger.
So it all comes down to this. The sultan of the salmon. The ruler of the river. The monarch of munch. The colossus of catch! Ok, you get the idea. We are pitting bear against bear in an epic battle of…well, eating! Countless salmon later, countless hours fishing, and literally THOUSANDS of pounds of bear fat accumulated on the bodies of these contestants, and it all comes down to two. We already introduced you to Beadnose, and you can see her glorious gains above, but joining the ring with her is not to be taken lightly.
Introducing 747. I would agree that this bear was destined to be bear 747. As big as a jumbo jet, this bears name is also its number, and rightfully so. With the stomach only a scant few inches above touching the earth this beast walks on, it might be safe to say that the park officials were hard pressed to snap a photo of 747 without a salmon in its jaws! In a word: Unbelievable
So there you have it. Beadnose vs 747 in the final match to become chubby champion of 2018. Who has your vote for the fattest of the Alaska brown bears this year?!
Bears are large, but can also be extremely agile! Check out the article below to watch a black bear scale a barbed wire fence with ease!