Voting for Fats Bear Week opened Wednesday, giving followers one other long-awaited alternative to root for his or her favourite tiny-eared floofs on this 12 months’s bracket of contestants.
Web customers have constructed an annual custom round returning to the stay cams to spend a day — or extra — with the bears at Alaska’s Katmai Nationwide Park and Protect. As new and acquainted faces alike emerge from hibernation each summer season to feast up for the approaching winter, the methods they discover meals, elevate offspring and survive accidents all inform distinctive tales of resilience.
Voting continues via Tuesday, and many individuals have flocked to the digital polls already, organizers stated. Turnout seems prone to rival or surpass final 12 months’s whole of round 800,000 votes.
Followers love the bears for extra than simply their potential to double in measurement: Longtime favorites — like four-time champion 480 Otis — have persistently wooed voters with their charming personalities.
“Our brown bears in Katmai Nationwide Park are fairly charismatic,” stated Man Runco, the manager director of the Katmai Conservancy. “Persons are in a position to comply with them and their lives throughout the summer season on the bear cams, and I believe that basically permits individuals to attract a connection between these bears and themselves.”
Though 1000’s of brown bears reside within the park, the bracket narrows voters’ decisions to 12. Rangers attempt to embrace a variety of bears, making certain a mixture of grownup males, single females, females with cubs, a juvenile “teenage” bear and a cub. However those that shine on digital camera, Runco stated, are naturally extra prone to make the reduce.
The bears rely closely on the salmon run at Brooks River to bulk up on fat for the winter, however as waters heat around the globe, salmon populations have been dwindling in North America. Nonetheless, the bears at Katmai have been fortunate, stated the founding father of Fats Bear Week, Mike Fitz, the resident naturalist at Discover.org.
The water temperature at Brooks River has been survivable thus far, Fitz stated, whilst salmon runs close by have collapsed in recent times. A part of that’s as a result of results of local weather change on oceans, the place salmon — a cold-water species — stay a lot of their lives earlier than they head again to freshwater to breed.
Whereas he’s thrilled to look at viewers fall in love with the bears at Katmai, Fitz stated he additionally hopes followers keep in mind to understand the significance of the encompassing ecosystem that permits them to thrive. Defending the bears, he stated, requires defending salmon and the general habitat, as nicely.
Except for offering bear lovers with a enjoyable alternative to bask in parasocial relationships with the massive fluffy mammals, Fats Bear Week can be a celebration of the animals’ power and flexibility within the face of hardship.
“Once we watch them at Brooks River, we will see their individuality. They’re not anonymously residing their lives in methods the place we wouldn’t know a lot about them,” Fitz stated. “We get to see them return 12 months after 12 months and develop and mature. That’s a outstanding expertise, and it’s one of many issues that retains me watching the webcams.”
So, as one Twitter consumer put it, “blissful fats bear week for many who observe this vacation.”