Yes, the most wonderful time of the year is back again, as tomorrow (October 3) sees the beginning of that most majestic of celebrations: Fat Bear Week 2018.
Since 2014, Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska has run its annual Fat Bear Week competition. This year it'll take place between October 3 and October 9. Each day, the bears of Katmai face off against each other in an online battle to see who will be crowned the heavyweight champion of the park.
But although most of us would probably not appreciate a week devoted to our expanding waistlines, for the porky predators, the massive weight gain is actually a good sign.
"There’s no fat shaming here," explains Katmai's press release. "In brown bears, large amounts of body fat are indicative of good health and strong chances of survival."
It all comes down to the bears' natural preparations for winter. The brown bears of the Alaska Peninsula, where Katmai National Park sits, are already hefty bois, weighing over 450 kilograms (1,000 pounds), but since July they've been stacking on extra pounds with a singular devotion: every fall, they enter a period of what's known as hyperphagia – basically, they eat, and eat, and eat, non-stop, with the sole aim of getting as fat as possible.
So what's behind the months-long munch-a-thon? Well, it turns out the bears are gearing up for a physical trial like no other: spending up to the next six months asleep.
"They have to have enough fat stored up to last through up to six months of hibernation," Katmai park ranger Andrew Lavalle told Mashable. "Over the winter, they could lose one-third of their total body mass. In short, the more fat you have, the more likely it is that you'll come out of the den next spring."
This coming week, Katmai Park will post before and after photos of contestants from its famous bear cams to its Facebook page, where voters will decide, via the very scientific medium of clicking "like", who is the biggest bear of all. After a final on October 9 – also known as "Fat Bear Tuesday" in honor of the original one-day celebration – the champion will be declared.
But regardless of the eventual victor in this battle of the bulge, the bears all have the same prize in store: months and months of non-stop eating and sleeping. And if that's not a win, we don't know what is.