A giant black bear with a huge belly was caught on camera as it roamed through Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota.
Video uploaded by the Voyageurs Wolf Project shows the burly bear roaming around at night and suggests it could be the same burly animal they filmed last fall.
How and why the bear has such a large stomach is unclear, as it would have just emerged from hibernation. Each year they enter their burrows in October and November and reduce their metabolic rate while sleeping through the winter. They don’t eat, drink or defecate, having gained up to 30 pounds a week before winter to avoid the food shortages that occur during the coldest months.
Black bears in the northern US states usually appear in April or May, when this bear was just spotted. They typically lose about 30 percent of their body weight during their hibernation.
So, if he’s not just a little chubby, why does this bear have such a big belly?
Experts from Wildlife SOS told Newsweek that the bear may be suffering from a condition called ascites, which is characterized by a buildup of fluid in the abdomen.
Black bears have previously been found with ascites on autopsies (animal post-mortems), sometimes in cases of Canine Adenovirus 1, an infectious disease that usually affects dogs but can spread to wild animals such as bears and mountain lions. Symptoms include fever and congestion of the mucous membranes, leukopenia, coagulopathy, and often death.
Other suggestions in the video’s comments section include that the bear may have a tumor or hernia that is causing its abdomen to swell the way it did.
The explanation might not be quite so negative, however.
“[Another] This could be due to pregnancy if the bear is female,” Wildlife SOS told Newsweek.
Black bears typically give birth in their winter dens in January and February, with a gestation period of between 194 and 278 days.
Mating season occurs in June, but the fertilized egg implants itself in the uterus by November, and fetuses only develop when the mother has stored enough body fat to both survive the winter itself and provide milk for her young, until she wakes up in spring.
However, the timing doesn’t work for this explanation. The video was captured in May, many months after black bears normally give birth.
It’s hard to tell what’s wrong with this bear from a video. A vet would need to examine if it is healthy to determine why it is so large at this time of year.
The team at the Voyageurs Wolf project, which regularly sees bears on their cameras, told Newsweek: “We’re not sure there’s anything wrong with this bear.