Christmas came early for the brown bears of the Katmai National Park and Preserve (KNPP) in Alaska this year, in the form of a salmon rush. The annual “Fat Bear Week” doesn’t kick off until October but an unseasonably successful salmon run has seen the brown bears bulking up ahead of schedule.
Fat Bear Week is a cause for celebration as each year brown bears must put on a suitable amount of weight if they’re to make it through the winter and awaken healthy from their hibernation. The KNPP tweeted in 2018 that during peak season the bears can gain 1.8 kilograms (4 pounds) a day in the pursuit of portliness, so it seems the bears this year have been smashing it out the park. Predictions already state that given the bears' overachieving there will be a new victor over last year’s roundest contestant, an adult named Holly who was described as “the shape and color of a toasted marshmallow”.
"All indications are that we’re going to set a new record," Curry Cunningham, a fisheries ecologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who researches salmon runs in Bristol Bay, told Mashable.
The promising bear BMIs are thanks to what is likely to be another broken record as the 2020 sockeye salmon run appears to be the best since reliable records began in 1963. Annually these fish make their way up the Naknek River to Katmai's Brooks River, where the brown bear feast begins. The previous record saw 3.5 million salmon head up the river in 1991 but reports from July show 2020 has already seen more than 3.4 million sockeye salmon make the same journey.
It’s easy to understand how the bears are making such #gainz when the calorific expenditure of some catches seems surprisingly minimal:
Come October, the KNPP’s annual competition will pit their portly residents against one another in inviting the public to vote on which chubster should take the crown. The week-long knockout contest will see the bears compete for final place and with names like Lefty, Otis, and Wayne Brother it’s almost time to choose your fighter.
Forget fat shaming, this is all about fat faming as we celebrate bears doing what bears do best, all the while giving themselves the best chances of surviving the harsh Alaskan winter. “She is fat. She is fabulous. She is 435 Holly,” praised the Katmai National Park and Preserve following last year’s contest. “All hail Holly whose healthy heft will help her hibernate until the spring. Long live the Queen of Corpulence!”
You better watch out, Queen Holly. The 2020 competition is beefing up.