fat bear week
747 "Earl of Avoirdupois," the 2020 Fat Bear Week Champion; (photo/National Park Service/N. Boak)

Fat Bear Week 2022 Is Almost Here, and Feasting Action Is in Full Swing

Get ready, humans! It’s time to choose your favorite Alaska brown bears for Fat Bear Week and celebrate the iconic animals’ yearly life cycle.

Each fall, Katmai National Park’s brown bears get fatter and fatter — and fatter still.

The live feed from Brooks Falls promises action-packed viewing in the coming weeks as the ursines hunt salmon swimming upstream.

The bears are just doing their thing, getting ready to hibernate. But whether they know it or not, hundreds of thousands of humans around the world will be watching anxiously, rooting for their favorite bear to win the annual single-elimination Fat Bear Week tournament.

 

Katmai wildlife officials have held the annual “competition” each year since 2014. In the de facto eating contest, burly bears like 32 “Chunk,” 128 “Grazer,” and perennial kingpin 480 “Otis” go head to head, bracket-style.

This year’s tourney kicks off on Oct. 5 and runs through Oct. 11. If it’s possible that a contest involving wildlife could get any cuter, Fat Bear Junior — where you can vote on the cutest chubby cubbies — also returns tomorrow and runs through Friday.

fat bear junior
Bear 94’s three cubs, part of Fat Bear Junior 2022; (photo/National Park Service/K. Moore)

Brooks Falls Bustles for Fat Bear Week

As I write this, the Brooks Falls live feed crackles with intently staring, fuzzy-eared, salmon-nabbing action. Rotund bears above the falls watched, played, caught the (amazingly numerous and impressive) jumping fish, and occasionally roared to each other. Bears downstream monitored calmer waters and nonchalantly mingled with waterbirds.

And some bears reclined comatose on the banks, having evidently munched themselves into varying and hilarious states of stupor.

Go to explore.org’s Fat Bear Week page to pick your favorites. This year’s main competition bracket reveal takes place on Monday, Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. ET. The four-slot Fat Bear Junior bracket is already live.

fat bear junior
(Image/National Park Service)

Entry is free and open to all. (Voting is free too.)

To help you consider who to pick, explore.org offers some tips plus facts about the bears’ lives and eating habits. That includes growth cycles, mothers’ responsibilities, and more. If you want to keep it simple, you can also just vote for “the bear you think is simply the largest and fattest.”

You might want to keep your eye on 480 “Otis.” The big papa won three out of the first four competitions starting in 2014 and stormed back to reclaim the throne last year.

I will now proceed to get very little work done today as I watch the Brooks Falls feed with unmitigated glee. When Fat Bear Week is over, one big bear will reign supreme. Though let’s be honest — they’re all winners.

Bears play in Katmai National Park
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Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.