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Eyes on Fat Bear Week

There is only a couple of days left to participate in the third annual Fat Bear Week. The weeklong tournament began in 2015 in hopes of spreading awareness about the park’s wildlife and is hosted by the National Park Service. It is a tournament that pits several of Katmai National Park’s brown bears against each other in order to determine the most rotund in the park.

The park, located in Alaska, boasts a population of over 2,000 brown bears who thrive in the environment that includes four million acres of land with very limited public access– only 60 visitors per night are allowed on their single campground.

Hundreds often tune into the volunteer-run live stream of the bears leading up to and throughout the tournament.

As the news cycle continues to be inundated with various pressing political issues and natural disasters around the world, Fat Bear Week has continued to be a welcome respite for many on social media. The week marks the point in the year where bears wind down from a period of non-stop eating as they prepare to enter their dens in November and hibernate. Some bears gain as much as four pounds a day. 12 of the biggest bears are then placed in a bracket and people are encouraged to vote for their favorite on the park’s Facebook page.

The winner will be crowned Oct. 9 this year.

These brown bears perform metabolic magic. Before Fat Bear Week the bears have entered a state known as hyperphagia, in which they eat nearly nonstop, as the park explained. Most of their diet by June will consist of sockeye salmon as the fish swim upstream through the park to spawn. Bears can easily be seen congregating at the park’s Brooke Falls en masse. Over two dozen of the salmon will be eaten by a single bear in a day and some of the male bears may end the period weighing over 1,200 pounds.

While bears 151 Walker, 503, 812, and 435’s Cubs faced an early elimination. Reigning two-time champion 480 Otis was easily defeated by Bear 409 Beadnose with a difference of over 3,000 votes. She will face Bear 854 Divot in the semi-finals.

The current favorite to win remains Bear 747, however, who was seen eating 67,000 calories of salmon in 3 hours at one point and whose “belly barely makes clearance with the ground” according to the park.

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