Fat Bear

151 Walker, a large adult male brown bear and a top contender in Fat Bear Week 2021, eats a salmon at the base of Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Photo © Katmai Conservancy/Guy Runco.

Fat Bear Week is an annual, single elimination tournament where your vote decides which bear best transcends beyond the ordinarily large and into the realm of extraordinarily fat. From September 29 to October 5, the public votes for the bear who they think is the fattest and most successful bear of the year. The bear with the most votes advances. Only one will be crowned Fat Bear Week champion. 

“Fat Bear Week is to the natural world what March Madness is to college basketball,” says explore.org founder Charlie Annenberg Weingarten. “But it is also so much more! Bears arrive in July looking thin and frail. Now as winter approaches they are rotund and ready to retire into hibernation. It is a true success story. I am humbled to work alongside the Katmai Conservancy and Katmai National Park to bring a classic fall event to people around the world. Get your grub on and vote!” 

More than 640,000 votes were cast in Fat Bear Week 2020, but the 2021 competition could be even larger. Throughout the summer, bears jostled for fishing spots at Brooks Falls and their efforts have paid off in body mass. Will voters deem last year’s champ, the 1,400-pound giant known as 747, worthy of a repeat victory? Or, will they decide that his real-life rivals for dominance—Chunk and Walker—deserve the crown? Can Grazer, the river’s most defensive mother bear, displace her virtual competitors like she does when another bear threatens her cubs? Three-time champ Otis arrived late this year. Has he made up for lost time and gained the fat reserves necessary to reclaim the title? 

New to the competition this year is Fat Bear Junior. During this warm-up event, the public chooses the cub who they think should compete in the Fat Bear Week tournament. Fat Bear Junior takes place September 23 – 24. 

Voters can shape their decision by comparing early and late summer photos of the bears, by consideringeach bear’s life history and the unique challenges it facesin order to survive, and by joining our many Fat Bear Week live events. We also encourage voters to campaign for their candidate bear through #FatBearWeek on social media. Media and press organizations can utilize our collection of Fat Bear Week photos and clips. 

There’s no fat shaming in Fat Bear Week. Fat is the fuel that sustains a brown bear through winter hibernation. Fat bears exemplify the richness of Katmai National Park and Preserve and Bristol Bay, Alaska—a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet. Learn more at fatbearweek.organd watch live, streaming footage of the bears at Brooks River every day on explore.org. 

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