Every fall for the past five years, Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska has celebrated Fat Bear Week: a chance, as NPR explained, for people around the world to vote March-Madness style on which coastal brown bear has gotten the chunkiest while gorging themselves in preparation for winter hibernation.
In Canada’s British Columbia, meanwhile, a wildlife photographer snapped a picture of emaciated bears this fall struggling to find food amidst one of the area’s lowest-ever salmon runs.
While the Katmai bears are lucky in comparison, the climate crisis has still affected them. That’s because the salmon were delayed this fall due to drought, which meant that bears and fish didn’t arrive along the Brooks River until mid-September, two weeks later than normal.
“I’ve been out there before, when a [salmon] run was delayed by a week, and the bears start getting anxious,” Joy Erlenbach, a Ph.D. candidate in environmental studies who works with Washington State University’s Bear Center, told The Verge. “It’s scary for the bears because they don’t know what’s happening. They just know the food they expect isn’t there, and it can affect their behavior.”