Alaska’s Fat Bear Week proves conservation can be joyful

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For one rabid nook of the web, October is Octobear. On October fifth, Katmai Nationwide Park & Protect in southern Alaska kicked off Fats Bear Week, when the park’s brown bears are pitted in opposition to one another in a bracket problem very similar to school basketball’s March Madness tournament. Followers use earlier than and after photographs to vote for the bear they assume has gained essentially the most weight over summer season to organize for hibernation. However what started as a distinct segment contest for conservationists has turn into a worldwide marketing campaign the place superfans stump for his or her favorite chunkster to be topped the fattest of all of them.

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Fats Bear Week started in 2014 as Fats Bear Tuesday. Mike Fitz, a former park ranger at Katmai, observed that reside webcams displaying the bears generated numerous on-line feedback. He and the opposite rangers let folks vote for his or her favorite fats bear on Fb. The one-day occasion attracted simply 1,700 votes in 2014. Final yr’s week-long contest elicited practically 800,000. Like its basketball progenitor, followers be a part of workplace bracket swimming pools and collect to look at the reside bear cams arrange across the park. Some go additional. Jean Gross is internet hosting a bear-themed potluck the place she lives in Northern Michigan. Company should deliver meals that attraction to each bears and people, equivalent to salmon patties and honey butter. This yr Ms Gross says she is rooting for Holly, an older feminine, as a result of “she is a pleasant little fats woman and so am I”.

The competition serves two functions in addition to gushing over the rotund ursids. America’s nationwide parks are sometimes in distant, undeveloped areas. They are often troublesome and expensive to journey to. Fats Bear Week brings Alaska’s pristine wilderness to followers’ laptop screens. “The webcams assist to democratise the expertise,” says Mr Fitz, now a naturalist for discover.org, which operates the bear cams. “It’s not restricted to the lucky few who can go to the river any extra.”

Second, Fats Bear Week heaps consideration upon the bears, and the ecosystems they inhabit. The two,200 bears of Katmai are so husky as a result of they feed from one of many healthiest salmon runs on the earth, says Sara Wolman, a former park ranger. Salmon within the Pacific Northwest have suffered as a result of overfishing, dam construction and warming rivers as a result of local weather change. Brooks River, the place Katmai’s bears wish to fish, has to this point dodged these threats.

Creators and followers of Fats Bear Week argue the competition has gone viral as a result of it’s a conservation success story that for one week helps dispel emotions of doom about habitat loss and local weather change. “Possibly issues aren’t tremendous nice on a regular basis on the earth,” says Felicia Jimenez, a present Katmai ranger, “however there’s some actually fats bears in Alaska.”

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