By Carla Charter
BROOKS CAMP, KATMAI NATIONAL PARK, ALASKA- Bead Nose, #409, is the official winner of the Brooks River Fat Bear competition. “Through fun and games, we are trying to educate people about the bears and how they survive,” Anela Ramos, Park Ranger at Brooks Camp. Brooks Camp is part of the Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
The competition began in 2014 as Fat Bear Tuesday where people could vote for the biggest and fattest bear at Brooks Falls. The event grew from there to a week leading up to Fat Bear Tuesday. “People can see the bear’s pictures on Facebook and vote for the bear they think is the fattest one, based on before and after pictures. Each individual voting, interpret the fatness of the bears in a different way, sometimes by the number of neck rolls, the bear’s thigh rolls, which has the lowest belly to the ground or overall chubbiness,” according to Ramos
The fat though is more than just part of the competition. “The fat the bears put on by eating salmon is essential for them to survive,” Ramos explained. The Brooks River is the best place to catch the salmon as there is a waterfall midway in the River, Ramos continued.
The bears start hibernating in late November until spring. The bears lose one third of their body weight during the winter, “They will be their skinny selves in the spring then we will see the competition start all over again.” Coastal Brown Bears can way from 1,000 to 1,100 pounds. Males are usually heavier than females.
“We estimate there are about 2,200 bears in the park. They sleep through the whole winter and will have cubs during that time if they are pregnant as well. Our champion Bead Nose, could come back with cubs in the spring,” Ramos said.
“A lot of people know the individual bears due to a partnership with explore at explore.org/bears, where the bears can be viewed via bear cam,” she stated. There is a bear identification e-book, The Bears of Brooks River which can be downloaded at the https://www.nps.gov/katm/learn/photosmultimedia/ebooks.htm, where people can learn the individual stories of the bears at Brooks Camp, “You really get to know the individual bears,” Ramos said.