Fat Bear Week Returns to Alaska’s Katmai Park with 12 Hefty Hibernators Vying for the Title

The annual competition features brown bears in Alaska who have been eating extra to prepare for hibernation — and you can vote for your favorites now

fat bear week

It’s that time of year — Fat Bear Week!

On Wednesday, Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve began its annual bear-centered competition, a tournament where anyone can vote for the hibernator they think deserves the title of fall’s fattest bear.

Fat Bear Week uses a March-Madness-inspired bracket to pit the park’s bears, who have been putting on mass in preparation for hibernation, against each other to vie for the public’s favor — and votes. The brown bear that wins the competition’s final round is Fat Bear Week’s champion.

All week, bear enthusiasts can vote on Fat Bear Week’s official website for their favorite furry contenders and judge the animals “using any criteria they see fit,” according to the contest’s website — where voters can also see a side-by-side comparison of each bear from earlier in the season compared to now, a few weeks away from hibernation.

The weeklong tournament starts Oct. 5 and concludes on Fat Bear Tuesday, Oct. 11. The National Park Service is also offering opportunities to check in on the bears via live cams so that animal lovers can learn more about Fat Bear Week’s contenders.

fat bear week
KATMAI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE/FLICKR

Fat Bear Week celebrates the healthy appetites of the brown bears living in the Alaskan preserve. The bears in the park eat to pack on the pounds throughout the summer, so they have the reserves needed to enjoy hibernation comfortably in the winter. The Katmai National Park website says an average male adult can go from weighing 600-900 pounds in midsummer to well over 1,000 pounds by the fall.

“Each winter, bears enter the den where they will not eat or drink until they emerge in spring,” the park’s website says. “During this time, they may lose up to one-third of their body weight as they rely solely on their fat reserves. Survival depends on eating a year’s worth of food in six months.”

Bears are drawn to Katmai thanks to the salmon that swim through the region from June through September. The park is, according to its website, “a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people” and the largest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.

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fat bear week
KATMAI NATIONAL PARK AND PRESERVE/FLICKR

What started as a single day has become a phenomenon. Fat Bear Week has drawn the attention of thousands of fans. Over 96,000 people voted in the finale last year, Katmai National Park and Preserve revealed.

Each bear contestant is tracked by a specific number, but many also have names. This year’s defending champ is Otis, who won the very first Fat Bear contest eight years ago and went on to win in 2016 and 2017.

 

Source :people.com