Family Life

This National Park runs a fattest bear competition and this is how you can get involved

Winter is going to be soon upon us.

As the colder weather arrives, it's a sign for the bears to go into hibernation. 

But before they get some shut-eye, they need to gain some serious weight.

Having some fun with the annual ritual, a national park in Alaska runs the fattest bear competition. 

Around 2,200 bears call Katmai National Park and Preserve home, and the park has asked the public to vote for who they think should take the title of the fattest bear.

This week in the Brooks River, the bears are stocking up to gain that winter weight.

Taking advantage of the non-stop feasting, the national park updates their social media regularly with photographs and rankings.

The competition is taken very seriously – with a league table firmly established.

Perhaps the week-long competition is so well organised because it's entering its fourth year.

It may seem like a funny thing to do, but it's a clever way to educate the public about how vital it is for the bears to pile on the pounds.

During the six months of hibernation, a bear can lose a third of their body mass and in order to do this, they need to gorge on sockeye salmon.

Their favourite meal is found in the Brooks River and at the height of the feeding season, the animal can devour up to 30 fish a day.

Ranger Andrew LaValle explained how important this feasting is for the amazing creatures.

“For the bears it’s serious,” he said. “They’re trying to pack on as much weight as possible to survive the winter.

“Life as a bear is hard. They come out of the dens in spring looking weak and hungry, and being fat in October or November is a sign of success and resilience.”

If you want to get involved in the voting, Andrew gave away his top tips for what to look for when trying to find a candidate for the title.  

“It is open to interpretation!” said the ranger. “This is a fun way to educate the public about these bears, not a federal election.

“We simply urge people to vote for the bear that ‘looks fattest’, however, they may judge that. Fat is a hallmark of a successful bear. Does that mean clearance with the ground? Number of rolls? Neck flab? It's up to you,” he added.

The winner needs to be chosen, so get voting.

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