An empty nester mom recently won an award for being fat. She did not know she was entering into any kind of contest, and presumably she had no idea she was being watched by local biologists. She just ate a lot because she was finally able to eat whatever she wanted after raising not one, but two sets of children who she had to feed before she could eat herself. And what does she get in return? Grazer, empty nester mom and beautifully rotund bear, just won the Fat Bear Week award for putting on the most weight ahead of hibernation season. As an empty nester mom who fed my own four cubs for many years, I have never been prouder of a bear than I am of Grazer. She’s earned every pound she put on ahead of her well-earned nap. Where no one will wake her up to tell her they are hungry/bored/thirsty and she can just sleep and sleep.
The bear known as 128 Grazer beat out the competition in Katmai National Park and Preserve in southern Alaska this year to be crowned Fat Bear Week champion for the first time. All she had to do was eat as much salmon as she could handle, which sounds like a pretty great competition, and get fatter than the other bears around her. Something Grazer got pretty good at in her years of raising cubs.
“Grazer is a particularly defensive mother bear who has successfully raised two litters of cubs,” her official bio reads on the park website, noting that she learned to be “preemptively” confrontational when raising her babies. “Her behavior produced benefits beyond the protection of her cubs. In summer 2023, many other bears remembered her reputation and Grazer maintained a high level of dominance even though she was single.” Again, empty nester accurate.
Local ranger Felicia Jimenez praised Grazer for her dedication to eating more than any man around, telling NPR, “She has been putting in the work. She was quite dainty in early summer, but now she is huge.” It was a heck of a lot easier without her kids around. “She hasn’t had to worry about providing for anybody but herself, so she has really made some massive gains,” Jimenez said.
Grazer beat out former Fat Bear Week champions 747 and Holly before facing off against a bear called 32 Chunk, but she beat him handily. She received 108,321 votes to Chunk’s 23,134 votes, which is sort of embarrassing for Chunk. All that extra weight should make for a great hibernation for Grazer.
As for her cubs, we like to think they would be proud of their empty nester mom for winning a competition and scaring off all the males in the area with her high level of dominance. But I bet they’ll just roll their eyes if she tells them about it.