From June through October, ten million people follow the stories of the Brooks River bears via eight live-streaming cameras on explore.org. Now, it’s time to crown the favorite in the park.
The National Parks Service launched Fat Bear Week in 2014 as Fat Bear Tuesday and, the next year, expanded the competition to a whole week. The competition now has a bracket for Fat Bear Junior, Sept. 28 and 29, highlighting some of the up-and-coming cubs that will find their way into the ultimate competition over the next few years.
The competition isn’t a way to “body shame” these hulking bruins. Rather, it’s a way to celebrate the bears of the Brooks River region of the Katmai and the healthy ecosystem in which they live. Fat bears equal healthy ecosystems and healthy ecosystems contribute to a healthy planet.
Katmai bears are the fattest during the late summer and early fall, and their added girth is the product of their summer-long efforts to prepare for winter hibernation. To pack on the pudge, the bears fill up on the plentiful salmon that run on the Brooks River from June until mid-October – one of the longest salmon runs of any river.
You can vote for hulking specimens with names like Chunk, Grazer, Walker, Holly, Otis, Divot, and Yearling, as well as many more. Each bear is featured on the “Meet the Bears” page where you can see pictures of each bear over several years and read stats and characteristics of each bear.
Those interested in participating in the event can watch live events on the Brooks Live Chat Channel and start voting this week in the Junior division. Junior winners move into the mature brackets starting the week of Oct. 4.
Your vote decides who is the fattest of the fat. Matchups will be open for voting between 12 – 9 p.m. ET (10 a.m. – 7 p.m. MT).
You can download your bracket to predict your own Fat Bear winner. This is a single-elimination tournament. For each match-up, vote for the bear you believe best exemplifies fatness. The bear with the most votes advances to the next round. Only one will be crowned champion of Fat Bear Week.
So what does the winner receive? A trip to the spa to work off those stubborn pounds? Nope, the winner gets six months of rest and relaxation in the solitude of Katmai National Park and Preserve.