A single wild salmon provides about 4,000 calories, and the biggest bears can eat up to 40 salmon a day, equivalent to 160,000 calories.
A female brown bear known as 128 Grazer has been voted the winner of Fat Bear Week 2023, an annual online poll showcasing the animals as they prepare for winter hibernation in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.
In late summer in Alaska, brown bears (Ursus arctos) begin to enter a phase of intensive calorie accumulation called hyperphagia, triggered by shortening days, hormonal shifts and a sudden abundance of salmon.
The annual sockeye salmon migration runs through the park’s rivers each summer and early autumn. A single salmon provides about 4,000 calories, and the biggest bears can eat up to 40 salmon a day, equating to an astonishing 160,000 calories.
Males can gain up to 230 kilograms in just a few weeks and weigh up to 540 kilograms by the time hibernation starts, usually in late October or early November.
The week-long poll, which began in 2014 as Fat Bear Tuesday, ended with a showdown between 128 Grazer and male bear 32 Chunk.
Grazer came out on top, receiving a majority of the public’s votes — 108,321 compared with Chunk’s 23,134.
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Naomi Boak, a ranger at Katmai National Park, said Grazer was probably “the best angler on the river” this year, and had used her current singledom to focus on herself.
This year marks the 10th edition of Fat Bear Week, which allows the public to watch bears in the national park using video cameras situated in parts of the Brooks River, where the bears catch and eat salmon.