Giant Bear With Enormous Belly Caught on Camera in Minnesota Wilderness

A huge black bear with an enormous belly has been caught on camera roaming the Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota.

A video, uploaded by the Voyageurs Wolf Project, shows the chunky bear walking around at night and suggests it could be the same chubby animal they filmed in the autumn last year.

How and why the bear has such a large stomach is unclear, as it would have just come out of hibernation. Every year, they enter their dens in October and November, reducing their metabolic rate as they sleep through the winter. They don't eat, drink, or excrete, having bulked up by up to 30 pounds a week before the winter to avoid the food scarcity that comes in the coldest months.

Black bears in the northern U.S. states usually emerge in April or May, which was just when this bear was spotted. They usually lose around 30 percent of their body weight over their hibernation.

So, if it's not just a bit chubby, why does this bear have such a big belly?

Experts from Wildlife SOS told Newsweek that the bear might be suffering from a condition called ascites, which is characterized by a buildup of fluid in the abdomen.

Infectious Disease

Black bears have previously been found with ascites in necropsies (animal post-mortems), sometimes in cases of Canine Adenovirus 1, which is an infectious disease that usually affects dogs, but can spread to wild animals like bears and mountain lions. Symptoms include fever and congestion of the mucous membranes, leukopenia, coagulation disorders, and often death.

Other suggestions given in the comment section of the video include that the bear may have a tumor or a hernia that has made its belly swell out like it has.

The explanation might not be quite so negative, however.

"[Another] reason could be pregnancy, in the case that the bear is female," Wildlife SOS told Newsweek.

Black bears usually give birth to cubs in their winter dens in January and February, with gestation ranging from 194 to 278 days.

The mating season occurs in June, but the fertilized egg implants in the uterus in November, and fetuses only develop if the mother has stored up enough body fat to both survive the winter herself and provide milk for her cubs until she wakes up in the spring.

However, the timing doesn't work for this explanation. The video was recorded in May, many months after black bears usually give birth.

It's hard to tell what is wrong with this bear from just a video. A vet would have to investigate if it's healthy in order to determine why it's so big at this time of year.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project team, which sees bears on its cameras regularly, told Newsweek: "We aren't sure there is anything wrong with this bear. The bear just looks to be a large bear with a big belly coming out of hibernation."

fat bear
A file photo of a black bear resting while looking for food. With winter approaching, they put on weight quickly for hibernation. iStock / Getty Images Plus