(WTAJ) — The brown bears at Katmai National Park in Alaska have spent the last few months packing on the pounds, all in preparation for the annual Fat Bear Competition.
Well, they’ve actually just been preparing for hibernation. But either way, it’s almost time to vote for your favorite heavyweight.
Each year the bears fill up on fish, berries, nuts and more to gain weight and get ready for the cold winter. And boy can those bears can get pretty tubby. In celebration of their chub, the National Park Service has started a Fat Bear Week competition. The bears go head-to-head and fans get to vote on who they think has bulked up the most.
The 2023 competition kicks off on Oct. 4 and goes through Oct. 10. This is a single-elimination tournament. For each match-up, you’ll vote for the bear you believe best exemplifies fatness. The bear with the most votes advances to the next round.
At the end of the competition, one bear will be crowned the champion of Fat Bear Week.
Take a look at the bears in this year’s competition:
The 2023 contenders were announced on Oct. 2. You can check out the before and after photos and pick your favorite here. Make sure to keep up with the brackets and vote every day for who you think has packed on the most pounds ahead of winter.
Past champions and beloved competitors
Since 2014, Katmai National Park has held the competition in celebration of the fuzzy fatties and the hard work they’ve put into getting ready for winter.
Otis is one of the most prolific winners and also one of the oldest males that arrive in spring at Brooks River, according to Explore. He won in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021. At his preferred fishing spots, Otis waits for salmon to come to him. He once ate 42 salmon in a sitting by using this strategy. Despite the difficulties and rigors of old age, Otis uses his adaptability, skill, and patience to find success.
747, The Jumbo Jet, Bear Force One. He goes by many names and it’s safe to say he has worked hard to get to his current figure. According to Explore, he may have weighed up to 1,400 pounds last year and was first identified in 2004. He is a skilled and efficient angler who is found fishing most often in the jacuzzi or near the far pool of Brooks Falls. He’s a two-time champion having won in 2020 and 2022.
The men aren’t the only formidable fighters for Fat Bear Week. 435 a.k.a Holly is a large adult female that was first seen in 2001. Since then, she has reared several litters of cubs and in the process has become one of the most experienced bears at Brooks River, according to Explore. She took the crown in 2019 and successfully raised several litters of cubs.
There are fan favorites, past champions and just some really big bears in this competition. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Oct. 25. Just like the brown bear’s motto of “every bite counts,” every vote counts.