Last year's champ Holly will compete against 11 other brown bears, including her own spring cub

By Benjamin VanHoose
September 28, 2020 02:42 PM
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Fat Bears Competition
Grazer
| Credit: National Parks Service

Fat Bear Week 2020 is finally here!

You read that right — the National Park Service unveiled the lineup of chunky brown bears set for the annual event that celebrates the wild animals packing on the pounds before hibernating for the winter.

Voting begins Wednesday and the polls are open until Tuesday, Oct. 6, so nature fans can pick their favorite beefy bears and crown the true, chunky champion.

To hype the playful event, NPS shared a photo on Instagram of last year's victor Holly looking hefty while sitting waterside at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

"She is beauty and she's grace, she stuffed so much salmon in her face...⁣ The weight is almost over!" read the caption. "Will last year's Fat Bear Week Champion Holly defend her title? ... She is up against some BIG competition, including two-time Champion bear 480 Otis. All the contenders are currently feasting on salmon."

Twelve bears are in the running this year, situated on a competitive tournament bracket. The animals are also viewable in a live-stream on Explore.org, in case any voters need to see more of the bears in action before settling on who's the heftiest bear.

Fat Bears Competition
Chunk
| Credit: National Parks Service

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Along with Holly, some of the other bears competing in Fat Bear Week 2020 include Chunk, Grazer, Walker, Otis, and Holly's spring cub, to name a few. According to Explore.org, Holly's spring cub, believed to have been born in January or February, has "benefitted from her mother’s experience in finding food."

The baby animal became injured earlier this month when she came face-to-face with a porcupine, walking away with quills stuck in the bottom of her front paw.

"The quills do not seem to bother the cub while she swims, but on land she is hobbled and avoids placing weight on the injured paw," reads the site. "Holly’s cub is well-positioned to completely recover from the injury caused by porcupine quills, and she’s already shown improvement in mobility."

"As this cub has shown, the life of a spring cub contains risk as well as moments of joy."

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Experts explained why it's worth celebrating the bears and their pre-winter weight gains, noting that they'll lose a third of that bodyweight in hibernation.

"Each winter, curled snug in their dens, brown bears endure a months-long famine. During hibernation, bears will not eat or drink and they will lose one-third of their body weight," reads the Explore.org website. "Their winter survival depends on accumulating ample fat reserves before entering the den. Katmai’s brown bears are at their fattest in late summer and early fall after a summer spent trying to satisfy their profound hunger."

"Each bear faces its own challenges in order to gain the body mass necessary to survive," they continued. "Adult males need to grow large to dominate the best fishing spots and secure mating opportunities. Female bears need to gain weight for their own survival as well as to support the birth and growth of cubs. Bear cubs experience the same hunger as older bears but also undergo tremendous growth spurts. Juvenile bears living on their own for the first time must navigate a gauntlet of hazards to establish a home range and find food without mother’s guidance."