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Bears Compete to be the Fattest During Fat Bear Week

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
May 22, 2024 3:02 am

Bears Compete to be the Fattest During Fat Bear Week

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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May 22, 2024 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Lian Law is a ranger at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve, and she’s here to share about Fat Bear Week, the March-Madness style bracket where bears compete to be the “Fat Bear Champion.”

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I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Avoid wear prohibited by law. See terms and conditions 18 plus. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories, the show where America is the star and the American people. And today we're going to hear from Leon Law in Alaska. Leon is a ranger at Brooks Camp in Katmai National Park and Preserve. And she's here to share a story about Fat Bear Week, the March Madness style bracket where bears compete to be the fat bear champion. There's not many places that you can work and say, sorry, I'm late. There was a bear in my way.

And that be a completely valid excuse. But that does happen at Brooks Camp to Rangers as well as visitors. Katmai National Park and Preserve is comprised of just over four million acres or so. It's located in southwest Alaska. And one of the things that we are perhaps best known for is our high concentration of brown bears. Bears are not true hibernators. They actually go through a state called torpor. But here in Katmai, bears enter the den anywhere from late October to early December and they exit in April or May. But once they enter the den, they don't eat or drink anything but rely solely off their fat reserves. So essentially, they need to eat an entire year's worth of food in six months or less. During this time in the den, they will lose perhaps about a third of their body weight.

And even when they exit the den in spring, it's still a lean time for them. So bears will continue to lose weight. So it just speaks to the importance of getting fat essentially during the waking hours. So Fat Bear Week began in 2014 and it started simply as Fat Bear Tuesday, a one day competition held on our social media. And the purpose was to highlight the hard work of the bears and our healthy ecosystem here at Katmai. It became so successful that it has now expanded into Fat Bear Week. So for bears here, fat equals survival and success. A fat bear is a healthy bear. So Fat Bear Week is Katmai's annual celebration of success and survival. So it is essentially a competition. It is a single elimination bracket where bears face off head to head in matchups and voters get to choose the ultimate winner.

The main bracket consists of 12 different bears and voters will choose who advances to the next round and ultimately crown the fat bear champion. Unfortunately, our bears aren't really the kind who would cooperate if we tried to put them on the scale. So what we can do is we can only estimate their weight.

So a couple of years ago, we did experiment using LIDAR scanning, which is typically used in civil engineering for scanning buildings or similar things. It provides a measurement of volume. And through that, we can kind of get an estimate of weight. So most adult males weigh 600 to 900 pounds in midsummer. And by October, November, large adult males can weigh well over a thousand pounds. So you'll see huge fluctuations.

A good example, for instance, is 747. He was the champion of 2020, and we believe that he is our largest bear known to use Brooks River. He was estimated to weigh 1400 pounds. So he is a big guy. One of the special things about Katmai is we actually get to see the same bears over and over and sometimes not just throughout the season, but over the course of several years. And through that, you come to know that each of these bears are individuals. What type of fishing technique they like to use or where a bear prefers to fish.

480 Otis was last year's fat bear champion, and actually that was his fourth title claim. He is one of our older bears here at Brooks, and he employs a sit and wait kind of method, a method of patience, of letting the fish come to him. And over the course, we get to see bears, not just him, but other bears as well, take in fish after fish. Sometimes we've seen bears eat upwards of 40 fish in a day. 128 Grazer, she is really known for being assertive, and we will often see her fishing in prime spots because of her assertiveness. So 909 was a first time mom, and she had a spring cub, so first year in their life cub.

And 909 had caught a fish and had brought it over the bank to eat. And we saw this little spring cub charge another bear who had gotten too close and was begging for fish. So we get to witness really incredible interactions. And sometimes food is so plentiful, right, that bears are released from some of that competition for resources. So we also get to see bears play with bears occasionally.

So what you get to witness at Katmai is pretty remarkable. We have seen so much positive response to Fat Bear Week. We see people incorporating it into classrooms. We see people campaigning for their favorite bear. People have bracket parties at work. And during Fat Bear Week, we also have many live broadcasts on the bear camps, and people will tune into that and have live watch parties as well. So we see how widespread it really has become hearing from people all over the world as they participate in voting. And last year, we had nearly 800,000 votes cast. So during Fat Bear Week, we are really holding up Katmai and specifically Brooks Camp in particular on a pedestal that truly exemplifies the richness of Katmai National Park and the Bristol Bay area of Alaska. Fat Bear Week is a celebration of success.

And a terrific job on the production by Madison and a special thanks to Leon Law and her work at Katmai National Park. And preserve this great country. The federal government owns 30% or more of all the lands in this great country. The states own another 10%. But 40% of our country has been preserved by either Congress or state legislatures.

And thank goodness for that. We love celebrating the stories of our wildlife in this country. No better story than how Fat Bear Tuesday became Fat Bear Week in Alaska. Here on Our American Stories. Here at Our American Stories, we bring you inspiring stories of history, sports, business, faith, and love. Stories from a great and beautiful country that need to be told.

But we can't do it without you. Our stories are free to listen to, but they're not free to make. If you love our stories and America like we do, please go to OurAmericanStories.com and click the donate button. Give a little. Give a lot. Help us keep the great American stories coming.

That's OurAmericanStories.com. I'm Katja Adler, host of The Global Story. Over the last 25 years I've covered conflicts in the Middle East, political and economic crises in Europe, drug cartels in Mexico. Now I'm covering the stories behind the news all over the world in conversation with those who break it. Join me Monday to Friday to find out what's happening, why, and what it all means. Follow The Global Story from the BBC wherever you listen to podcasts.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-05-22 04:28:25 / 2024-05-22 04:32:26 / 4

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