Katmai National Park's Fat Bear Week Is Here: Meet the Big Alaskan Bears Prepping for Winter

Animal lovers can vote for their favorite chunky bear at Alaska's Katmai National Park until Oct. 5, after which Fat Bear Week's winner will be announced

chunky bear
Photo: Getty

It's the most wonderful time of the year — it's officially Fat Bear Week!

On Wednesday, Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve began their annual pre-hibernation, bear-centered competition, a March Madness-like tournament where people can vote for their favorite chunky bear.

The park's bears pack on the pounds in the weeks leading up to winter to ensure they have the reserves needed to enjoy hibernation comfortably. Fat Bear Week celebrates these prepared animals and their healthy appetites.

Bear enthusiasts can help pick the most hibernation-ready bears by casting their vote between 12 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST each day at Explore.org and can also download a blank bracket to predict their own fat bear winner as well. Voting is open through Oct. 5, after which the Fat Bear Week 2021 Champion will be announced.

The fun-filled voting event is a joint effort crafted by the Alaskan park and two nonprofit partners: the Katmai Conservancy and Explore.org.

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chunky bear
Getty

In the competition, 12 of the largest bears located near the park's Brooks River compete against one another for the ultimate fat bear title.

Among the dozen bears competing this time around are Grazer, a "defensive mother bear," Walker, a "dominant" bear, and Otis, "one of the older bears at Brooks River."

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The contest first began back in 2014, when it was then a one-day event. In the years since, the competition has expanded to a full-week event.

Last year's winner, known as Bear 747, is competing once more this year after garnering more than 640,000 votes in 2020.

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According to the National Park and Preserve, the area in which the bears are located is "home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet."

About a total of 2,200 brown bears are currently residing within the Alaskan park, CNN reported.

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