It’s Katmai National Park’s Fat Bear Week again, and their gallery of fat bears is teeming with … fat bears. There’s also a junior bear competition, but, come on, let cubs be cubs! I’m still recovering from Toddlers and Tiaras and Dance Moms. You too?
Now, to be completely transparent, I’ve followed “professional” wrestling and personally measured Arnold Schwarzenegger’s neck. I spent a week as the replacement advisor to a cheerleading team attending Spirit Camp at Auburn University. If you have never seen teen-aged girls compete for the “Spirit Stick”, you have never seen the bare face of human desperation. I’ve been in the belly of the beast, people.
Loyal readers already know that my wife and I encounter bears on a regular basis. We live among black bears in a manicured suburban town just north of Hartford, Connecticut. Our local facebook pages include one dedicated to bear antics in swimming pools, at birthday parties, and in garbage bins. The most recent estimate of bears in town numbered almost 100, including the cubs we first saw last spring. Close encounters of the bear kind? I’ve had two, mano a pata, close enough to understand that there is something more than I can understand behind those deep brown eyes.
Is this just another beauty pageant for bears? There’s nothing remotely regrettable about this contest.
There may be pageant winners out there, aching to correct my superficial dismissal of beauty contests. I know. It’s all about the scholarships. And yet, I still recall the solemnity with which Miss Arizona 2009 responded to a question about universal health care:
“I hear your question and refuse to answer it or express an opinion because everyone has a right to an opinion…”
I’d rather interview a black bear rooting through a garbage bin.
Back to Fat Bear Week.
The opportunity to endorse the bear of your choice is sponsored by the Katmai National Park, Brooks River, Alaska. There is a wonderland of bear related information and photographs on their competition website: https://explore.org/fat-bear-week#about, including several bear cams and a lot of information about the habits of bears in that park. For those of us not able to visit Katmai, the park offers this description of its treasures:
“Katmai’s brown bears are at their fattest in late summer and early fall. It is the end-product of their summer-long effort to satisfy their profound hunger and prepare for winter hibernation. During hibernation, bears do not eat or drink and can lose one-third of their body weight. Their winter survival depends on accumulating ample fat reserves before entering the den.
To get fat, bears gorge on the richest and most easily obtainable foods they can find. In Katmai National Park, that most often means salmon. Dozens of bears gather at Brooks River to feast on salmon from late June until mid October. Perhaps no other river on Earth offers bears the chance to feed on salmon for so long.
Fat bears exemplify the richness of Katmai National Park and Bristol Bay, Alaska, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.”
Fat bears are not mocked; winter is coming. As the park puts it –
“In the bear world, fat exemplifies success. It is the fuel that powers their ability to endure winter hibernation as well as the key to their reproductive success … Their road to greatness began months ago. After a summer-long effort, brown bears at Brooks River in Katmai National Park have reached peak fat. How did they do it and what challenges did they face along the way? Those are a couple of the questions we’ll answer as we reveal the contenders and the bracket for the 2022 Fat Bear Week tournament. Watch Fat Bear Week Contestants and Bracket Reveal: October 3 at 7 p.m. Eastern / 4 p.m. Pacific.”
I did check back to see what the brackets look like and found that only four hours ago, an avid voter added this poetic tribute to the bear of her choice:
I like the light brown Bear Holly
Although she doesn’t look jolly.
She’s feeling the stress
of being chosen the best.
She is looking somewhat melancholy.
A visit to Holly’s profile explains the poet’s ardor. Holly is described as resembling a lightly toasted marshmallow; she has blonde ears and tan-colored claws. I exhort you to make your own determination of bear girth, pick a favorite, and write an ode in appreciation of the massive ursine beauty you favor. Mine is a bear known only as 856. You’ll find his resume at the web address provided below:
It’s immeasurably easier to wax rhapsodic about a bear with an actual name, Holly, let’s say, than it is to promote my pal, 856, but here goes-
856, dark vision of plumpitude
Is a marvel of belly and rumpitude
His prowess in pre-winter feeding
Assures him of snoozing and breeding
While others must wander in chumpitude
Your bear is waiting to meet you. Feel the love, and as Al Capone is reputed to have said, “Vote early and vote often.”