Are you ready for some fat bears?!?
October 3, 2018 7:43 PM   Subscribe

"On Wednesday, October 3rd, Katmai National Park and Preserve kicks-off Fat Bear Week 2018 to determine which gluttonous giant sits atop the brown bear oligarchy of obesity. The annual march madness-style competition, now in its fourth year, pits commonly seen bears on the Bear Cam against one another to decide which bear indeed, looks the fattest. The public is encouraged to vote on Katmai National Park and Preserve’s Facebook page in head-to-head matches each day beginning October 3rd. The bear whose photo receives the most likes will advance to the next round, until one bear is crowned “Fattest Bear” on Fat Bear Tuesday, October 9th."

"But there’s no fat shaming here. In brown bears, large amounts of body fat are indicative of good health and strong chances of survival. The bears need stores of fat to help them survive hibernation, which can last for up to half of the year. Over the course of winter hibernation in the den, a bear could lose up to one third of its body mass. In preparation, this time of year the bears are entering hyperphagia, a state in which they eat nearly non-stop. Since July, the bears have seen dramatic and transformative weight gain that will be on full display during Fat Bear Week." Maybe you recognize these contenders from the Bear Cam?
posted by ChuraChura (44 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
wow, those before and after pix (second link) are unbelievable.
(I'll leave it to non-exhausted others to come up with bear puns.)
posted by martin q blank at 7:51 PM on October 3, 2018 [8 favorites]

I was just reading this profile of Otis, a Fat Bear Week champ. I can't believe I've missed this in past years. I'm wholly supportive of fat, sleepy bear pictures.
posted by gladly at 7:56 PM on October 3, 2018 [15 favorites]

This week is the 60th anniversary of the debut of Yogi Bear (as part of the Huckleberry Hound Show). Probably the All Time Greatest Fat Bear. Period.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:06 PM on October 3, 2018 [4 favorites]

Bearly believable that it's the same bear before and after.
posted by Making You Bored For Science at 8:09 PM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

The profile of Otis is well worth a read (all these links are , bc FAT BEARS, but the profile includes lines like “On his best days he looks more Hershey’s Kiss than bear”).
posted by leesh at 8:38 PM on October 3, 2018 [12 favorites]

This is the greatest thing ever and it is making me so happy. They're all fat bears bront!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 8:49 PM on October 3, 2018 [6 favorites]

Desribing Otis to a walrus may not be fat-shaming, but it certainly isn't kind. Either to bears OR walruses!
posted by BlueHorse at 8:49 PM on October 3, 2018

I read a scifi story once about a process that allowed humans to hibernate and have longed to try it ever since.

In the meantime, sleep well, fat bears, and dream of spring
posted by emjaybee at 8:52 PM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by poffin boffin at 9:08 PM on October 3, 2018 [3 favorites]

a chunkey boi
posted by poffin boffin at 9:08 PM on October 3, 2018 [14 favorites]

god i had no idea how ready i was
posted by murphy slaw at 9:15 PM on October 3, 2018 [11 favorites]

854 all the way.

Beadnose is a champ, but 854 has that youthful swagger.
posted by Windopaene at 9:46 PM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

posted by praemunire at 10:15 PM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]

Otis for the win!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 1:54 AM on October 4, 2018

posted by LMGM at 2:24 AM on October 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Like the rest of us, rangers have to estimate the weight of Katmai’s bears visually, since an up-close evaluation would require sedating the animal and palpating to determine relative fatness.

My GP seems to favor this approach, too.

Additionally, I’ve been told that one of my cats, who I like to describe as having a “stocky, bear-like build,” is actually “tubby,” and needs to slim a bit. I am not telling her about Otis.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:37 AM on October 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Are these Absolute Bruinits?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:49 AM on October 4, 2018 [16 favorites]

Bear down for mid-terms
posted by crocomancer at 4:46 AM on October 4, 2018

Additionally, I’ve been told that one of my cats, who I like to describe as having a “stocky, bear-like build,” is actually “tubby,” and needs to slim a bit. I am not telling her about Otis.

Sounds like you have a heckin' chonker, there.
posted by thelonius at 4:50 AM on October 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

747! 747! 747!
posted by florencetnoa at 6:28 AM on October 4, 2018

Bears have it right man, just get fat on salmon and sleep.
posted by East14thTaco at 7:20 AM on October 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

no one tell the king of the cosmos. he might try to use otis to make a replacement constellation.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:48 AM on October 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

Getting fat on salmon and sleeping sounds like a contender for my new daydream while I'm at work.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:57 AM on October 4, 2018 [7 favorites]

So this is what my father-in-law has been up to
posted by pxe2000 at 8:26 AM on October 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

Intelligent design my ass! The bears get to hibernate and we don't? There's no Fat East14thTaco Week is there? IS THERE?

...I am being informed it is every week and to maybe chill out with the tacos.
posted by East14thTaco at 8:28 AM on October 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

may the chonkiest bear triumph!
posted by terretu at 9:48 AM on October 4, 2018 [5 favorites]

Additionally, I’ve been told that one of my cats, who I like to describe as having a “stocky, bear-like build,” is actually “tubby,” and needs to slim a bit.

My husband is a vet and hates having to tell his clients their dog/cat is overweight. They take it VERY personally. If he said they were "tubby" there would certainly be tears.
posted by waving at 10:09 AM on October 4, 2018 [9 favorites]

I really hope the internet trend toward valorizing largeness in animals (calling them "absolute units" admiringly, etc.) becomes a path toward effectively counseling pet-owners about pet diets. I'd like to think "He chonk! But perhaps... he chonk too much?" is a polite way to encourage people to switch their pets' food.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:14 AM on October 4, 2018 [14 favorites]

Yeah, I feel uncomfortable (beanplating, surely) because 1) I love seeing these good thicc bois and absolute units, they're adorable; 2) some of them, though, I look at and think they really do need to be on a better diet/have more exercise/generally have their weight looked at; but 3) this bumps up against my human fat acceptance and happiness with my own fat, but 4) that's my choice, to some extent, and pets are basically at the whim of whoever provides them food. Beans. Plates.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:39 AM on October 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think probably when we are talking about bears that have to put on this kind of weight to survive the winter, we can spare ourselves that particular anxiety?
posted by praemunire at 12:00 PM on October 4, 2018 [11 favorites]

Oh, 100% yes. I'm thinking of the poor fat captive tigers and the like.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:11 PM on October 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

Actually I have never seen more contented looking tigers in my life.
posted by notreally at 12:45 PM on October 4, 2018 [1 favorite]

yeah somehow we've got to account for how misfeeding tigers or failing to provide them with sufficient space to exercise is a form of abuse, while also keeping in mind that all cats are beautiful.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 12:45 PM on October 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't think these bears qualify as captive, even though they're living in a protected area. Katmai is pretty honest about how ideal their situation is compared to other wild areas:
And food is plentiful. Alaska’s coastal brown bears indulge in a particularly fatty smorgasbord of sockeye salmon (up to 4,500 calories) and coho salmon (could be as much as 14,000 calories per fish). “Here these bears have it almost as good as you can imagine. They’re able to just gorge themselves,” LaValle says. They can high-grade, which means eating the fattiest parts of a fish—eggs, skin, brain—and discarding the rest. “It’s like going to a restaurant and not wanting to fill up on bread.”

So it’s not an illusion that the bears at Katmai are extra large and chilled out. At a time when warming winters are keeping some bears up far past denning time and some urban bears stay up all winter eating literal garbage, Katmai’s bears live in rare, blissful ignorance. “What we see on the cams is reflective of a healthy ecosystem at its full potential,” Fitz says. “When we protect wild lands, have areas where watersheds are clean and unaltered, manage fisheries sustainably, we see success stories. We’re not putting Band-Aids on anything here."
Katmai doesn't allow hunting, so aside from idiot visitors who disturb the bears, these guys are living just as bears should live.
posted by gladly at 1:20 PM on October 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

OK, just warning you: now you're in my wheelhouse.

Let's take a little trip up to northern Minnesota. It's fall, we may get some snow tonight, the leaves are already past peak, and about the only bears you'll find up here are your garden variety black bears. They're getting ready for winter here too, but without rivers full of salmon they have to be a little more resourceful to put on the pounds.

One place they congregate is the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary ( near Orr, MN. It's kind of a touristy place, with an elevated observation deck and a shop and a nice website where you can see bears. To get a feel for the vibe just check out this Youtube video. The story goes that Vince was a logger who used to feed bears to keep them from breaking into the cook house, and over time he became became friends with many of the neighborhood bears , continuing to feed them well after his retirement. When his health failed some volunteers formed a nonprofit corp and kept things going.

To be very clear, this is not some recreation of their natural habitat. If you head up there you'll see hella bears, like dozens of wild bears, all over the place: fat ones, sleeping ones, cubs in trees, bears eating, bears, bears, bears. It's nothing like a natural setting because there are volunteers in handsome vests walking about pouring piles of food everywhere. It's healthy nuts or grains or something, but it's utterly not anything like the wild and the bears eat like Falstaff's pets. In fall of 1993 one of the favorite returnees was the vast Duffy, who was weighed at 848 lbs. That's bonkers huge for a black bear.

There's a generally agreed upon safe zone around the place, where hunters try to avoid taking the visiting animals and people just leave them alone as much as possible. For their part, the bears know a good thing when they see it and don't bother with garbage cans or garages when people are literally ladling out nuts for them. That said, sometimes mistakes happen and a bear gets shot during hunting season ( "Hunter bags 662-pound bear near Orr")

Anyway, the best thing about this was how it looked before the foundation was set up. Vince was doing this for decades, and the most charitable way to describe his approach might be to call him "untrained". He used to go into town and pick up day old bakery goods and just throw them out there for whatever bears were around. It was pretty trashy and profoundly unsupervised. I'd say unsafe, as would pretty much anyone else, except that I am unaware of anyone ever being hurt by a bear out there. Watch some videos and then just sit back and puzzle how that could be true. We went out there a few times and it was exactly like that first video, a very serious WTF experience.

Here are a few Youtubes from the 80s and 90s: one , two , (this one features some guy bringing what looks like a sheet cake as well as a young girl hand feeding the cubs), three (by the same person).

So there you go, fat bears in my home state. Have a good winter.
posted by Cris E at 5:04 PM on October 4, 2018 [11 favorites]

pretty much the only bright spots in my day so far have been:

* reading about Otis the bear
* googling "thicc cats"
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 5:10 PM on October 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Fat pets are apparently enough of a thing that I get compliments at the vet for having appropriate-weight cats. (One cat is 8 lbs, the other cat is 15 lbs. Neither cat is fat.) On the larger cat, Kobayashi Maru, vet is like...

"This is a huge cat."
"Is he fat? Should I feed him less?"
"Oh, no, he's not fat. He's just... huge, not overweight. He's fine."
"Just, we don't see many fifteen pound cats that aren't obese."

Obligatory pic

The bear transformations from spring to fall are amazing.
posted by which_chick at 6:11 PM on October 4, 2018 [17 favorites]

Obligatory pic

What a magnificent cat. His picture should be on our money.
posted by thelonius at 6:17 PM on October 4, 2018 [16 favorites]

Oh wow, what a cat!
posted by ChuraChura at 6:24 PM on October 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yes, that cat is an original Absolute Unit, AKA the Chonkiest Cat.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:56 PM on October 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

what the world needs is more celebration of large animals and less BASICALLY EVERYTHING ELSE GOING ON.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:19 PM on October 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

We've had an unusual summer here in southeast Alaska and the pink salmon run, which is the largest of the season, started very late and began with pretty low numbers. We also had a very disappointing berry season and between the delayed salmon, lower returns, and scarcity of berries it's been a tough season for many animals.

So I was a little surprised the other night. In the middle of the night I had to go downstairs to a different apartment than the one I was sleeping in, and the stairs are external to the house. On my way back up, after my errand was accomplished, I was on the stairs when I heard crunching sounds coming from the yard. I grabbed a light and shone it out to find three Sitka black-tailed deer in the yard, munching on salmonberry bushes and utterly unconcerned with my presence. They were so unconcerned, in fact, that I was surprised when, after a few minutes of me watching them, they all suddenly decided to scatter, even the one that was laying on the ground and looked as though it had settled in for the night. I wasn't sure why the change in behavior until I looked over to the other corner of they yard, where a bear the approximate shape of a beach ball was waddling out from some rhododendrons. I swear, if this bear tripped going downhill it wouldn't stop rolling until it reached the bottom -- I have never seen a fatter black bear.

It made me feel a bit better about the harsh season we're having -- I know that not all of the animals are doing as well but at least some of them are ready for the coming change of seasons.

Bonus end-of-the-season fattening-up anecdote: I wear a fitness tracker and have become somewhat tiresome about trying to make my step goal every day, which this time of year often means dragging myself out for a several mile march through the rain. I got a late start this afternoon and decided to walk in town, rather than on one of our local trails, because it was raining hard and getting dark and I didn't think it worth the drive out to the trailhead. But even in town you never know what you're going to see. The unexpected highlight of tonight's walk was a gang of seven or eight otters (more than I've previously ever seen in one place at one time) who were downtown at the mouth of Ketchikan Creek, feasting on the tail end of the salmon run and also tumbling over one another in that manner so typical of otters. I got to enjoy a pretty good show (and because of the rain had it all to myself) until they got alarmed by some seals that had taken an interest in their antics (or more likely: taken an interest in their salmon.) There's so much going on in and around salmon streams this time of year -- if you haven't ever seen an Alaskan stream at the peak of the salmon run it can be hard to believe it's not just some rare wilderness oddity from a National Geographic nature film. Seeing it in the middle of town is somehow just a bit surreal.
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:42 PM on October 7, 2018 [9 favorites]

At least the ladies of the bear world are winning! Beadnose takes the crown:
Ladies and gentlemen, sows and boars, the Fattest Bear of 2018 is… 409 Beadnose!

Bears must eat one year’s worth of food in six short months to survive hibernation, and 409 has excelled at that. Her radiant rolls were deemed by the voting public to be this year’s most fabulous flab. Our chubby champ has a few more weeks to chow down on lingering salmon carcasses before she heads up the mountains to dig herself a den and savor her victory.
posted by gladly at 6:49 PM on October 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

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