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The leaves are turning, lattes are getting pumpkin-spiced, and Mariah Carey’s opening note of that Christmas song is getting louder in the distance. That only means one thing: It’s fall, and winter hibernation is coming.
The brown bears of Katmai National Park spent the summer grazing on salmon at Brooks Falls, and now they’re eating as if their lives depend on it (they do). We’re just weeks away from hibernation, where bears will spend months in their dens without food and water—ultimately losing up to a third of their body weight. So, these bruins are currently dirty bulking about 20,000 calories a day to build fat; their bodies should burn through that in the winter instead of muscle. Luckily, this year, a record number of calorie-rich sockeye salmon swam through Alaska’s Bristol Bay, so these absolute units can gorge all season long in search of their coveted hibernation bodies.
LIVE: Bears are out tonight! pic.twitter.com/cN10IsIXV1
— explore.org (@exploreorg) July 28, 2022
Some of the world’s largest brown bears live along Katmai’s Brooks River, and now, you get to decide which is the biggest and the best. This annual size-up started as Fat Bear Tuesday, a single-day competition in 2014. Now, it’s a highly anticipated event with two brackets: one to vote for your favorite supersized mature ursines, another for the growing bébés. Last year, nearly 800,000 votes were cast as the chonky bois fueled their way through the brackets.
Fat Bear Week isn’t about fat-shaming; it’s actually quite the opposite. The winner gets nothing but the best chance of surviving the winter. These blubbery bruisers are putting in the work to double their body weight in the weeks leading up to hibernation, and this faceoff is our way of cheering them on and gushing over our favorites.
Fat Bear Week 2022
This week, it all begins with Fat Bear Junior. These youngins have spent their entire lives developing their angling skills and learning from the pros at Brooks Falls, and they’re putting it all to the test on Thursday, September 29, and Friday, September 30. Check out the rotund roster here and build out your bracket. Think one bear tips the scales above the rest? You can cast one vote daily between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific.
The old timers will go to battle in October. Explore.org will release this year’s robust lineup at 7 p.m. Pacific October 3, and the official competition will run from October 5 to 11. Follow along as we update our Instagram daily until one chunk earns the title of the Fattest Bear.