Sunday, December 5

‘Otis’ wins the contest for the fattest bear in Alaska for the fourth time | Climate and Environment

'Otis', winner of Alaska Fat Bear Week, before and after gaining weight for hibernation.
‘Otis’, winner of Alaska Fat Bear Week, before and after gaining weight for hibernation.

It is difficult to say if the contest of the fattest bear to the trapper Hugh Glass, the real character that Leonardo di Caprio incarnated in 2015 in 2015, would have seemed as sympathetic as we do The reborn (previously Richard Harris in 1971 in The man from a wild land), or to the environmental activist and documentary filmmaker Timothy Treadwell (to whom the filmmaker Werner Herzog dedicated a documentary, Grizzly Man, 2005). A Glass, notable mountain man and indian pawnee honorary, he was attacked by a bear and left so battered that his companions would have buried him if they had not been surprised by a band of Arikaras and stumbled away. The second was torn to pieces on October 5, 2003 by a bear, a huge male, who also killed his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, and, alone or accompanied by a colleague, ate them both (inside the animal, called bear 141 , part of the couple’s remains were found). Treadwell, who, of course, has been criticized (posthumously) for having passed through the lining the safety regulations when dealing with bears (see the essential, especially depending on which excursions, Bear attacks, by Erin McCloskey, Lone Pine, 2009: to retain the essentials, play dead, get under your backpack, protect vital organs as much as possible and try not to seem like a threat to the bug), they devoured it precisely in Katmai National Park, Alaska, which is where Fat Bear Week has been held these days.

It is an annual competition, diametrically opposed to fashion weeks, to establish which plantigrade goes to bed, so to speak, with the most accumulation of fat to pass hibernation. The winner of the unique test, which began on September 30 and decided today by popular vote (through images on the internet), has been bear 480 Otis, a veteran of the championship who has already won on three previous occasions.

Otis not a particularly impressive animal (for a bear grizzly): He is older (25 years old), missing teeth – Glass and Tradwell would consider it a favorable trait – and park guards call him downright lazy. But he has managed to once again capture the hearts of the audience and has taken the most votes against perhaps more impressive bears like 747, ominously nicknamed Bear Force One and winner last year.

In “the battle of the strongest bears”, as he has baptized it with epic breath The Washington Post, Otis, the Behemoth of Alaska or more prosaically “the chunkiest champ”(The strongest champion), has won the second classified, 151 Walker (Baron Beardonkadonk, big ass) by more than 6,000 votes. Some participants have denounced tongo, but the truth is that the old bear Otis (in freedom they live between 25 and 30 years) appeared as a prominent favorite in internet messages and Facebook conversations –Otis has its own page—, and in the semifinals on October 4, it already beat the 812 bear by more than 26,000 votes. 793,000 people have voted this year, breaking last year’s record of 650,000.

A still from the film 'The Bear', by Jean Jacques Annaud.
A still from the film ‘The Bear’, by Jean Jacques Annaud.

Otis He was first identified by park guards in 2001 when he was a four-year-old. The bear already won the first edition of Fat Bear Week in 2014, and then in 2016 and 2017. This year 12 bears have participated in the contest. The assessment of their corpulence has been done with the eye of a good cubero, since anyone approaches them to weigh them.

The Katmai bears, an estimated population of 2,200, that compete in the contest are brown bears (Ursus arctos), huge animals up to 600 kilos and three meters in height standing up (an astonishing spectacle that it is not advisable to observe personally, even if you have read with profit Bear attacks) which are also known as grizzlys (sometimes considered the subspecies Ursus, which is already a definition) and kodiaks, and they are an icon of the fierce latitudes of the wild north. There are about 35,000 in the US, 90% in Alaska, and 29,000 in Canada. Intolerant of human presence, they often react aggressively in encounters that break into their living space, which is large, as are their claws (10 centimeters). Omnivores and opportunists when it comes to food, although vegetarian based (especially berries, roots and bulbs), they do not disgust elk, caribou and any small or large beast, even squirrels. They also eat termites, ants, human garbage, and snack baskets, such as Yogui. There have been cases of grizzlys that have eaten polar bears when their habitats match. They like carrion.

Katmai bears especially use salmon from the Brook River to gain weight and increase their fat storage for hibernation: these fish, very abundant in the rivers of the national park, can each provide up to 4,500 calories, much needed for the long winter sleep in which plantigrades lose up to a third of their body weight. Usually, bears compete for the best places to fish for salmon. Not like this Otis, who has a separate private place where he sits patiently waiting for the fish to come. They have dubbed it “their office.” This year, Otis He got to the river very late and was underweight, but broke the scale early.

Beyond the fact that the competition of the fattest bear would raise the eyebrows even to Jack London, who described contests as curious as the loaded sleigh drag that he won Buck in the Yukon, the test serves to bring people closer to the biology and behavior of bears. “It’s nice to see how people express their love for bears through competition,” he said with satisfaction to USA Today Fat Bear Week creator Mike Fitz. The contest has no prize and it is unlikely that Otis be aware of his fame, but let’s hope he comes out of hibernation to fight for his throne again, and don’t rest on his laurels.

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