For Fat Bear Week, pick your favorite for this year’s chunky champ


It’s time to eat the brown bears at Brooks Falls in Southwest Alaska. This means a daily diet of salmon, salmon and more salmon. A large adult male bear can catch and eat more than 30 a day. That’s over 120 pounds of fish!

This happens all summer at Brooks Falls, a popular spawning site for sockeye salmon, making it a very popular bear fishing site in Katmai National Park and Preserve. More than 80 people gathered there last summer. Their fishing styles vary: some scoop, some dive, and a wise old man just throws himself into the river and waits for lunch to come swim.

Lian Law, visual information specialist at the park, said she never tires of watching the bears. “I can see them, not in a zoo, but living their lives in their own habitat.” Ordinary times for bears — like hunting gulls or playing with each other — are startling and special when observed in the wild, she said.

As October approaches, the park’s 2,200 brown bears must pack on the last few pounds before winter hibernation, during which they neither eat nor drink, but live off their stored fat. When spring arrives, they will have lost a third of their weight and the salmon feeding frenzy will begin again. The bears will need to eat a year’s worth of food over the next six months.

Some people travel to Alaska to see this show. For the rest of us, the National Park Service and have set up live webcams along the river. Then they invite the public to vote online for their favorite tubby bear.

This annual competition, called Fat Bear Week, runs from October 5-11 this year. Every day, pairs of bears clash. Those with the most votes advance to the next round. At the end of the week, a champion is declared.

Will it be last year’s winner Otis who will aim for an unprecedented fifth title? Or Chunk, who despite weighing over 1,200 pounds has yet to win the crown? Or maybe 2019 champion Holly? She is known for mothering two of her injured cubs and adopting an orphan.

A two-day “play-in” competition, called Fat Bear Junior, precedes the main event. The winning chubby cubby advances to the finals to take on the big guys.

Size isn’t the only factor in selecting a winner. Style and perseverance matter. Kindness too. Nearly 800,000 votes were cast last year, more than eight times more than in 2014, the competition’s first year. Your vote can help choose the 2022 champion. (For more details, see How to vote below.)

The winning bear receives nothing but the promise of a long winter siesta.

Contest details are at A parent or guardian must approve your vote as an email address is required for submission. Each address receives one vote per day. The site also has details of live bear talks (starting Wednesday), classroom activity ideas and other links.

Fat Bear Junior voting will take place Thursday and Friday. Voting for the main event runs from October 5-11.

You can see what the bears are doing at the falls right now in the video embedded above or by going to the brown bear livecam. There is also a lot of other interesting information on the site.

  • Brown bears are one of eight species in the family Ursidae, which includes polar bears and giant pandas. Grizzlies are a type of brown bear.
  • Brown bears are found in North America, Europe and Asia. The total population is estimated at over 200,000, about half of them in Russia.
  • Cubs weigh about one pound at birth. Most adult males weigh between 600 and 900 pounds by midsummer; heavy eaters exceed 1,000 pounds in October or November. Females weigh about a third less.
  • In the wild, brown bears can live 20 to 30 years.
  • Brown bears are not picky eaters. They love grass, fruits, nuts, insects, reptiles, honey and, for those lucky enough to be in Alaska, salmon.

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