Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Meet the Winner of Katmai National Park’s Fat Bear Week 2019

Animals
Before and after shots of Fat Bear Week winner Holly. L: NPS Photo / N. Boak R: NPS Photo / L. Carter

Every fall for the past five years, Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska has celebrated Fat Bear Week: a chance, as NPR explained, for people around the world to vote March-Madness style on which coastal brown bear has gotten the chonkiest while gorging themselves in preparation for winter hibernation.


This year's event was the biggest yet, with fans casting a record 187,000 votes, more than three times the number cast last year. And the winner of this massive contest is ... No. 435, or Holly, who decimated the competition by nearly 14,000 votes.

"All hail Holly whose healthy heft will help her hibernate until the spring," the national park wrote when it announced the winner Tuesday. "Long live the Queen of Corpulence!"

Holly was beloved even before she took home this year's heavyweight title, Reuters reported. She is a regular on the park's "bear cam" and earned the nickname "Supermom" for adopting a yearling cub, an extremely unusual act for a brown bear.

This year, however, she had no cubs to care for, and so could focus entirely on fattening up. She spent so much time fishing for salmon that it was hard to get a picture of her out of the water, rangers said.

"She's just a great bear. When she doesn't have cubs, she looks like the Michelin Man," Katmai Conservancy media ranger Naomi Boak told Reuters.

While Fat Bear Week is fun, it's also deadly serious. Bears can lose up to a third of their body mass during their up to six months of hibernation, the park explained. If they don't have enough fat stored to see them through, they can die, Boak told NPR.

The 12 bears that made up the Fat Bear Week competition are lucky enough to feed along Alaska's Brooks River, which has one of the highest concentrations of sockeye salmon in the world.

"Not all bears have this same kind of access to these salmon resources," Katmai Conservancy media ranger Brooklyn White told NPR, "and to an ecosystem that has such clean water."

This was especially true this year, as The Verge pointed out, since a record-hot July in Alaska stressed the salmon, some of whom were found dead before they could get far enough upstream to spawn.

In Canada's British Columbia, meanwhile, a wildlife photographer snapped a picture of emaciated bears this fall struggling to find food amidst one of the area's lowest-ever salmon runs.

While the Katmai bears are lucky in comparison, the climate crisis has still affected them. That's because the salmon were delayed this fall due to drought, which meant that bears and fish didn't arrive along the Brooks River until mid-September, two weeks later than normal, Boak told NPR.

"I've been out there before, when a [salmon] run was delayed by a week, and the bears start getting anxious," Joy Erlenbach, a Ph.D. candidate at Washington State University's Bear Center, told The Verge. "It's scary for the bears because they don't know what's happening. They just know the food they expect isn't there, and it can affect their behavior."

And the impacts of this year's hot weather could linger. It is still too soon to tell if the pre-spawning death of salmon this year will lead to fewer fish for the bears to gorge on during Fat Bear Weeks to come.

But it is possible the bears will be able to adapt to the climate crisis. That's because they are omnivores, The Verge explained. This year at Katmai, for example, cranberries were a popular snack.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. JustTulsa / CC BY 2.0

Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.

Read More Show Less
The Firefly Watch project is among the options for aspiring citizen scientists to join. Mike Lewinski / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 2.0

By Tiffany Means

Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.

Read More Show Less
People sit at the bar of a restaurant in Austin, Texas, on June 26, 2020. Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered bars to be closed by noon on June 26 and for restaurants to be reduced to 50% occupancy. Coronavirus cases in Texas spiked after being one of the first states to begin reopening. SERGIO FLORES / AFP via Getty Images

The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.

Read More Show Less
A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less
Left: Lemurs in Madagascar on March 30, 2017. Mathias Appel / Flickr. Right: A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. National Marine Fisheries Service

A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less