Congratulations, Beadnose. The voluptuous brown bear has been crowned winner of this year's "fattest bear" contest at Katmai National Park and Preserve.
"Her radiant rolls were deemed by the voting public to be this year’s most fabulous flab," the park posted on Facebook. "Our chubby champ has a few more weeks to chow down on lingering salmon carcasses before she heads up the mountains to dig herself a den and savor her victory."
Dubbed a "gigantic gal" with a "marvelous muffin top," Beadnose beat out "the jelly-bellied jumbo jet" bear 747.
Although packing on pounds may not be your goal, gaining serious weight is a necessity for the brown bears of this Alaska park.
Large amounts of body fat are a sign of good health and a key factor in survival. The bears depend on hefty fat stores to help them make it through hibernation, which often lasts as long as six months. During that period, bears can lose as much as one-third of their body mass while cocooned in their dens.
To prepare, the bears of Brooks River in the park are in a period of near-constant binging called hyperphagia, and October is when they're at their heaviest. To show off this dramatic weight gain and call attention to the bears' amazing adaptive abilities to survive, Katmai holds an annual Fat Bear Week in early October.
Each day from Oct. 3-9, the park posted online matchups between two heavyweight ursine contenders. The photos showed the bears in early summer versus fall to point out each one's transformative weight gain over those key eating months. People then voted on which of the pair looked the heftiest. The winner each day advanced to the next round, until Beadnose earned the title of "Fattest Bear" on Fat Bear Tuesday.
There were some pretty strong competitors this year, according to a park news release, including bear 747 "whose belly barely makes clearance with the ground." There was also bear 435, aka Holly, who is feeding herself and two cubs. They were all trying to unseat reigning champion bear 480 Otis.
If you want to follow the bears more closely, they are featured on explore.org's bear cams, which we also highlight on MNN's Facebook page. Viewers can check out the 24-hour stream as they catch and feed on sockeye salmon in the Brooks River and otherwise prepare for the heated competition.
This planned weight gain is a key for the bears, and it's nice to see the conversation focused in this way. As the park writes, "There's no fat shaming here; we’re celebrating the survival of Katmai’s most successful bears."
Editor's note: This story was written in early October 2018 and has been updated.