Saluda Library brings Alaskan wilderness to NC 

Published 12:17 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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Librarian uses Fat Bear contest, live streams to teach about wildlife


SALUDA—A Polk County local is bringing awareness of Alaskan wilderness conservation to the Saluda Library.

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Saluda Library Branch Manager Bob McCall, originally from Shelby, NC, has worked in libraries for 31 years and has been with the Saluda Library for 18 years this November.

McCall is bringing attention to Fat Bear Week in Katmai National Park and Preserve, a wildlife sanctuary located in southern Alaska, to teach folks about the ecosystem in a fun and exciting way. 

Held each October, Fat Bear Week is a week-long competition that evaluates a bear’s “success in preparation for winter hibernation,” concluding on ‘Fat Bear Tuesday.’ Voters choose between two bears per day online, and the winner moves on to the next round until one is left. The contest was first held in 2014 and over two million votes were cast online last year.

Each year after the bears are dormant for months, they emerge from their caves and start heading to Brooks Falls in the preserve, feeding on sedge grass along the way. Once at the falls, they gorge themselves on the spawning salmon, fattening themselves up for around four and half months.

McCall hosts viewings of the live streams at the Saluda Library, emphasizing the importance of the ecosystem and encouraging folks to vote in the Fat Bear contest. 

“The wildlife in the area depends on the salmon,” McCall said.

McCall was introduced to the contest by Gary Carter of Walhalla, SC, who works in Alaska with a nature film crew for documentaries. Carter does conservation talks around the world as part of the World Wildlife Foundation and encouraged McCall to inform others of the Alaska wilderness and ecosystem.

It’s a beautiful ecosystem up there,” said McCall. “I’m pushing the idea of making people aware of what’s in the Alaskan wilderness.”

Voting and the live streams of the bears, as well as other ecosystems from around the world, can be found at Bob McCall also holds live streams and shares information about the Fat Bear contest at the Saluda Library, located at 44 W. Main St. in Saluda.