Winter is on its way, and with the holidays just around the corner, many of us are likely to pack on a few pounds during the season. But the bears of Katmai National Park put all of our winter gains to shame — so much that park officials began hosting an annual "Fat Bear Week" contest.
To survive a long winter of hibernation, the brown bears of Katmai spend their summer packing on several hundred pounds, mostly on a diet of salmon. The bears' transition from their slim spring bodies to their winter weight is pretty impressive, and park officials agreed.
The park started its fat bear contest in 2015 as a celebration of the bears successfully preparing themselves for winter. There are roughly 2,000 brown bears in Katmai, but the stars of the show are the bears of the idyllic Brooks River, who can often be seen on Katmai's live web stream called the Bear Cam.
The contest uses a March Madness-style bracket, pitting bear against bear based on their before and after photos. Fans vote and, one by one, the bears are eliminated until a winner is crowned.
This year the honor went to bear 409, aka Beadnose.
Fans know that, as far as bears go, Beadnose is a gentle-hearted giant. She raises lots of cubs, often adopting ones that have been abandoned. The extra care the cubs require usually means Beadnose sacrifices some important winter weight.
This year, however, Beadnose “emancipated” her cubs, which gave her more time to focus on her own survival, and the extra weight showed.
Park officials wrote on their Facebook page:
Her radiant rolls were deemed by the voting public to be this year’s most fabulous flab. What does the she win for all this hard work? Stronger chances of living through the winter.
To win this year, Beadnose beat out other fan favorites like "Chunk" and the imposing figure known only as bear 747.
Fans were proud of Beadnose and congratulated her on her impressive win.
It was a well-earned win for the big, beautiful bear whose extraordinary size blew fans' minds before stealing their hearts.
It was a busy summer for Beadnose, but all her hard work paid off! She can enjoy a quiet winter as the new queen of Brooks River.
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