Animal RepresentationsMany people wonder what type of real life animal Snorlax was based off of, or if he was just based off of the idea of a food coma instead. There are rumors that he could be based off of a sloth because of the way it is always sleeping and being lazy. However, I believe that Snorlax is based off of bears instead. Below is my reasoning why I think Snorlax is based off of the black bear and the polar bear with anime examples.
The Black BearBased on the tid-bits we get in the Pokemon anime, Snorlax often live in the forested mountainous regions in Pokemon. When they are seen elsewhere, it's usually because their food supply has been damaged by their over eating, or destroyed from human interaction. This can be seen in Snack Attack! when the Orange Island comments on how Snorlax don't usually come to islands, but must have been pushed out because of lack of food. It is also said in The Garden of Eatin' when Snorlax comes down from the mountains and eats all of the bananas. This is something that is currently happening with the American Black Bear due to loss of habitat and food sources. These losses cause an interaction between bears and humans.
Similar Diets: Because the American Black Bear is an omnivore, it is seen eating a variety of food. This can be anything natural that it would eat in the wild (fruits, leaves, smaller animals, etc), to human made food and garbage. Yes, the Black Bear will dumpster dive if it needs to, and so will Snorlax. Black Bears are known to be good at catching fish in the water. We see Snorlax almost eat Misty's Goldeen in Snack Attack!, which startles her because Goldeen isn't food!
Habitat: Currently, the Black Bear in the United States often is found in the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountain Region because they prefer heavily vegetated mountainous areas. They are often found in areas with relatively inaccessible terrain, thick understory vegetation and large quantities of edible material (especially masts). Like the Black Bear, Snorlax too enjoys these types of locations.
Body Shape: The claws are short and rounded, being thick at the base and tapering to a point. The foreclaws tend to be sharply curved as well (look to the right for an image comparison between a Black Bear and Snorlax). Although the Black Bear is one of the smaller bears, it is still big compared to us. Adult Black Bear males usually weigh about 300-600lbs while Snorlax weighs about 1,014lbs. Obviously there is a difference here, because even the Grizzly Bear can't get up to 1000lbs. However, a male Polar Bear will get up to 990lbs on average (look below for more information on the Polar Bear).
Good Swimmers: Snorlax is seen swimming in multiple episodes, which kind of shocked me, but it also shocked Ash, Brock, and Misty in Snack Attack! when a Snorlax dove into the water to get to another Orange Island for food. We also see Snorlax swimming during Ash's Gym Battle against Clair in Better Eight Than Never (click both of those links to see images of Snorlax in the water). Black Bears are also said to love swimming any chance they can get. Since bears in generally like to hunt fish, they are never shy of water.
The Polar BearIn the Pokemon Short Number Nine, Snorlax Snowman, Pikachu and friends are building a giant Snorlax snowman. When they go to sleep, they are awoken by a knock on the window -- a giant ice-like Snorlax. This is said to be a rare breed of Snorlax that live in arctic temperatures. Snorlax makes a boat for them to sail the frozen waters out of an ice attack. As the boat starts to break, Lapras save the group and they continue to sail to Snorlax's home. We see later in the episode an island of ice where there are many more (hundreds) of white ice-like Snorlax waiting for his return.
I don't think that this was a coincidence. I think that because Snorlax was based off of a bear, they decided to have fun with that in a Pokemon Short and show that Snorlax the Black Bear has a relative Polar Bear that lives in an arctic region of the Pokemon World. Like stated above, the Polar Bear is the closest bear in size that can reach almost 1,014lbs, at 990lbs. We see Snorlax in this episode with a Polar Bear abilities to occupy a narrower ecological niche, with many body characteristics adapted for cold temperatures, for moving across snow, ice and open water. We see this Ice-Snorlax's family relies on the use of Sea Ice at the end of the episode, where the whole tribe is located.