Oct 4, 2023
Thought Question: If you were to host an event to raise awareness about wildlife and conservation efforts in your community, what would you focus on and why?
Otis, Chunk, and Holly are back, and Alaska’s salmon better beware. That’s right: it’s Fat Bear Week.
Fat Bear Week starts today and runs through the 10th (Fat Bear Tuesday). The competition features the brown bears of Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. Every year, the bears head to the Brooks River. There, they eat a lot of salmon to gain the weight needed to hibernate. The bears fill out so quickly that watching them eat has become a spectator sport. Some of the bears gain over 400 pounds in just a few months! The week ends in a tournament. Fans get to pick the ultimate winner.
“There’s no real set criteria that you’re supposed to vote on,” a naturalist who started the competition in 2014 told The Washington Post. “You could vote on just simply the largest bear, or look at relative fatness or consider the … circumstances of each bear’s life like the challenges of raising offspring.”
Nobody actually weighs the bears. Instead, voters watch webcams. They also look at before/after pictures of the bears. Last year’s winner, 747 (who fans nicknamed “Bear Force One”), weighed about 1,400 pounds by the end of the contest. Explore.org’s official Fat Bear Week website calls him “a skilled and efficient angler.” It notes, “he is typically very fat with a low-hanging belly and uniformly dark brown fur.” 747 is back for 2023. He's facing thick competition from the likes of Otis (a 4-time champ), Chunk (a crafty bear known to swipe other bears’ leftovers), and Grazer. Explore.org describes her as “a particularly defensive mother bear.”
May the heftiest hibernator win.
Polar Bear Tracker
This interactive resource allows students to track polar bears in Hudson Bay as they hunt on the winter ice and are sent back to land by melting summer ice.
"The Last Winter"
This mural by Dulk in Churchill, Canada depicts desperate and damaged polar bears and whales carrying pieces of their environment essential to their survival over a landscape punctuated by cars.
Polar Bear Adaptations
In this video, students will learn about many physical traits that polar bears share that allow them to withstand their cold arctic climate, hunt their prey, and find their mates.