It’s time to put your money where the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve’s mouths are: Fat Bear Week is back for 2022. The annual competition celebrates the seasonal fattening of Alaska’s brown bears (Ursus arctos) as they prepare for their big winter sleep.
The Alaska Peninsula is home to more bears than people, and Katmai is considered one of the best viewing sites in the world for bodacious brown bears. The unaltered habitat is so popular as it provides the bears with everything they need to survive and thrive in the changing seasons, and come October they are getting lorge.
Why? Because each winter brown bears will hibernate. The seasonal snooze sees them wait out the worst of the cold weather in a six-month sleep that can claim a third of their total body weight. As such, it pays to be at your portliest when hibernation time arrives.
Getting Hibernation Body Ready is a competitive sport for these animals, as they must compete with each other to lay claim to the best fishing spots so they can gorge themselves on sockeye salmon. The fish is not only rich in fats but also readily available in Katmai, which each year sees around 3 million fish attempt to pass through in the annual salmon run.
With the water acting like an aquatic Lazy Suzan providing an almost endless supply of fatty fish, the bears can expect to bulk up by around 1.8 kilograms (4 pounds) a day during the summer months. The bountiful buffet puts them into a state of hyperphagia as they eat as much as they can catch in an attempt to pile on the pounds.
It seems fitting, then, that such heroic efforts should be marked with a celebration – which is why the Katmai National Park and Preserve and Explore.org host Fat Bear Week every October.
If the photos of fluffy bears stuffing their faces with fish aren’t enough to whet your appetite, you can get involved with the Fat Bear Week sweepstake.
Each of the bears will be pitted against one another in a battle for the bulge as public votes decide who is deserving of the Fat Bear Week crown. Will 747 soar for the title? Has Chunk put on enough chonk to take the claim? Or will 164’s more relaxed approach of chilling by the “jacuzzi” make him the dark horse of this year’s competition?
You can follow along and find out by voting for your winner. Hungry for more? See what the bears are up to right now on live cam.