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September 22, 2023

Fat Bear Week, October 4-October 10, is a celebration of success and survival, where brown bears in the Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska are matched against each other in a “march madness” style online voting competition to see who is crowned the Fat Bear Week Champion of 2023. No, it’s not fat shaming- it’s highlighting the resilience and adaptability of brown bears. The winner will be announced on Fat Bear Tuesday (Oct. 10).

While the grizzly bears at Northwest Trek Wildlife Park aren’t in the competition, we think they’re worth celebrating, too.

Huckleberry and Hawthorne, both five years old, still have around 60-70 pounds before they reach full maturity, and keepers say they are growing steadily each fall.

“I’d estimate they will put on another 40-to-50 pounds by December!” said keeper Haley.

By the end of summer, Haley estimated Huckleberry weighed about 600 pounds, and Hawthorne weighed about 700 pounds.

“We feed the bears a balanced diet of fruits and veggies, fish, and bear chow,” said Haley. “Combined, the pair eats 60 pounds of food per day!”

Grizzly bear Hawthorne

The more weight gained during the fall, the better, especially for wild bears. Bears rely on their stored fat to get them through the winter. Huckleberry and Hawthorne are now entering their adult phase of life and have plenty of fat stores to help them.

“Even though our bears are in human care, it’s their instinct to go into a hibernation called torpor,” said Haley. “As fall winds down, they tend to slow down, and we change the type and amount of food they receive to reflect what they’d be eating in the wild.”

Grizzly bear Huckleberry

The grizzlies are already starting to slow down and have dug a den in their habitat that is large enough to fit both bears if needed; however, keepers don’t expect them to use it much.

“They bring vegetation into it from time to time, but the coziest and easiest place for them to take a snooze is still our man-made dens behind the scenes,” said Haley.

Those dens are heated with straw bedding, so who could blame them?

If you find yourself at Northwest Trek in October or November, keep an eye out for the grizzlies before they enter torpor. Hint: they’ll be the boys eating LOTS of food, rightfully so.