Please tell me you know what I’m talking about. Fat Bear Week. It’s the annual live streaming event where you watch the bears of Katmai National Park in Alaska “fatten up” for their winter hibernation.
Both the New York Times and Washington Post have stories about Fat Bear Week. Both are fascinating.
The Times piece talks about the origins of Fat Bear Week. Turns out, a former park ranger at Katmai came up with the idea.
Mike Fitz wanted to find a way for visitors to engage with the park. Now in it’s ninth year, Fat Bear Week had more than 600,000 votes last year.
“It’s a weeklong, bracket style elimination contest that pits the bulkiest bears of Katmai National Park against one another,” says the Times. Voting started on Wednesday and ends next week on Fat Bear Tuesday.
12 bears in this year’s competition. “Otis” is the one to beat. He’s the reigning champ. He’s old though. 25. Otis has won four times. In 2019, Otis was estimated to weigh more than 900 pounds. He’s a big boy. More importantly, a crowd favorite. 51,000 votes last year.
It’s so much fun to log on to explore.org and watch this. Big brown bears standing in the river and catching fish as they jump out of the water.
The point of all this. The bears eat and eat and eat so they can go to sleep for the winter. Hibernation.
The Washington Post reports: “But for many scientists, the true fascination of Fat Bear Week involves what happens next, when the now beachball-shaped bruins, carrying about 40 percent body fat, lumber into their dens and start hibernating. During hibernation, they remain healthy under conditions that would weaken and sicken mere humans. The bears emerge months later, lean, strong and barely affected by their months of starvation and inactivity.”
The science of hibernation is fascinating. Scientists believe it could help us better understand diabetes, muscle atrophy and inactivity.
Here’s the thing according to the Post. For five months, hibernating bears do not eat, drink, urinate, defecate or move. Their metabolism drops by 75 percent. Their kidneys shut down.
Then, they wake up. They shake it off and get back to living.
I love the science of all this. Mostly though, I just love watching the bears. My money is on Otis. He’s the old man in the competition. I know how he feels. Today, I just wanna eat and go to bed.