Protecting the Endangered Species Act Will Help More Bears Earn the “Fattest Bear” Title

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By Courtney Bourgoin and Heather Moyer, Sierra Club

Katmai National Park in Alaska has made news in the past week over its annual “Fat Bear Bracket Challenge”, where followers on their social media outlets vote on which of the park’s brown bears have fattened up the most since spring. The park has photos of 12 of the park’s most followed bears from the spring when the bears awakened from hibernation and from recently, after the bears have had all summer and fall to fatten up up on salmon (you can even watch the bears fatten up all summer via the Brooks River webcam).

This year’s fat bear winner is Holly, pictured above in all her chubby glory. And while the Fat Bear contest is a joy to watch each year (because it has people delighting in wild animals thriving), tragically, as some bears enjoy feasting on salmon and sockeye to stock up for the winter, fish populations are declining rapidly across North America and many bears are suffering.

Climate change is threatening food sources and altering habitat for iconic bears. One such recent story comes from British Canada, where a photographer captured images of a starving grizzly bear mother and her cubs.

In the US, the Endangered Species Act is our most effective law for protecting wildlife in danger of extinction. Ninety-nine percent of species listed under the Act have survived, and many are on the path to recovery. Unfortunately, the Trump administration is shredding this most iconic wildlife protection plan. Their “Extinction Plan” — as we’re calling it — will gravely weaken critical endangered species protections by:

  • Making it more difficult to extend protections to threatened species, delaying lifesaving action until a species’ population is so small it may be challenging or impossible to save;

  • Allowing economic factors to be analyzed when deciding if a species should be saved;

  • Making it more difficult to protect polar bears, coral reefs, and other imperiled species that are most impacted by climate change;

  • Making it easier for companies to build roads, pipelines, mines, and other industrial projects in critical habitat areas that are essential to imperiled species’ survival

Katmai rangers know species are threatened and hope that Fat Bear winner Holly’s fame will bring awareness to what these animals face.

“Not all bears have this same kind of access to these salmon resources, or to an ecosystem that has such clean water,” says Katmai Conservancy media ranger Brooklyn White.

You can help – take action to save threatened and endangered species from losing protections: sc.org/savewildlife

Originally posted here.

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