Typically, when we hear the phrase “fat bear” our minds go straight to Katmai National Park’s incredible Fat Bear Week. It’s the Olympics for brown bears as they prepare for hibernation, and results in nothing short of the best images on the internet. But an American black bear putting these behemoth brown bruins to shame? Now that’s a rarity.
Such is the case up in Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park on the U.S.-Canada border. There, the Voyageurs Wolf Project has captured a black bear so unbelievably rotund that it’s sending social media into a frenzy. The trail cam clip, which you can see below, shows the bear’s belly a mere inch off the ground as he/she lumbers through the forest. For black bear enthusiasts like this Outsider, it’s something you’ve got to see to believe.
Check out the footage for yourself before we break down exactly why this bear is looking so massively overweight.
“This might be THE fattest bear we have ever seen in our area! How much do you think this porker weighs?!” Voyageurs captions their footage on Facebook. “Unfortunately, we only got one video of this beauty but it is enough to appreciate the bear’s curves and figure… It worked hard for that body!”
“We are still going through trail camera footage from this past summer and fall where we are finding and trying to share some gems like this,” Voyageurs continues of their remarkable capture. “With the number of cameras we have out, it takes quite an effort to get through all of the footage.”
All North American Bears Enter Hyperphagia – Black Bears are No Exception!
So what could possibly have this American black looking as chonky as the salmon-gorged fat bears of Alaska’s Fat Bear Week? Two words: hibernation preparation.
Break this down into one scientific term and you have hyperphagia. As autumn rolls on, bears enter this pre-winter feeding frenzy. By definition, it’s a period of excessive eating and drinking to fatten for hibernation.
This finds our black and brown bears of North America eating and drinking constantly throughout their day in order to prepare for a solid 4-to-6-months of no eating, drinking, or anything in-between. Nothing else matters in this pre-hibernation timespan but food, more food, and water to wash it down.
Of course, this is all good news for wildlife lovers who are commenting in concern online. “Is he okay? Are they supposed to get that big???” writes one overbearing bear enthusiast.
In short: Yes, this black bear is thriving. They’re doing exactly what they need to do! For a bit more context, the North American Bear Center cites that black bears with unlimited food and water sources will eat 15,000 to 20,000 calories per day during hyperphagia.
For us humans, imagine eating 40 Big Macs every singe day for weeks on end, then sleeping for 4-to-7 months. This is the life of a black bear in hyperphagia. And they wouldn’t have it any other way.