Grizzly Sow and Cubs walking close together
(Photo/Tim Rains, National Park Service)

Fat Bear Week Junior: Check Out the Chubby Cub Competition

Fat Bear Week is a staple, hallmark event for Katmai National Park and bear-lovers everywhere. This year, the National Park Service is adding a brand-new category of competition.

Every year, Katmai National Park in Alaska celebrates its wealth of wildlife (read: bears) with Fat Bear Week. We’ve been covering the competition for years now, and every year, it seems to grow bigger. And fatter.

Here’s all you need to know about Fat Bear Week and the newest addition, Fat Bear Junior.

Fat Bear Week is a March Madness-style competition that pits the fattest bears against one another. Why? Bears bulk up for winter hibernation, and some of these bears do an extra good job. Katmai National Park provides bear bios, before and after photos, and brackets — all you have to do is cast your vote.

Didn’t know this was a thing? Well, it is. Over 640,000 people cast votes in 2020. It’s equal parts trend, entertainment, and healthy competition.

Fat Bear Week: Cubs Enter the Fray

New this year is the junior showdown amongst the bulkiest and burliest baby bears. On Sep. 23 and 24, four chubby cubbies will compete for the chance to advance to the main comp against the senior bears of Katmai’s Brooks River.

a spring bear cub in Katmai NP in Alaska
909’s spring cub bulked up for Fat Bear Junior; (photo/NPS, N. Boak)

This is a single-elimination tournament format. The first-ever juniors to compete in Fat Bear Week are spring cub 132 (cub of Fat Bear Week finalist 128 Grazer) and spring cub 909. And yearling 435 (cub of 2019 Fat Bear Week winner Holly) and yearling 128 will face off.

The winner of each of those matches will then go head to head to see who is the chubbiest. Only one cub can be crowned the winner of Fat Bear Junior on Sep. 24 — and then move on to the really big leagues.

Be sure to cast your votes today and tomorrow, and check back for our coverage of the main event next week. The main Fat Bear Week bracket will be revealed on Sep. 27.

Editor’s Update: Congrats to Fat Bear Junior Champion Spring Cub 132, and reigning 2021 Fat Bear Overall Champ 480 Otis! Otis won out over his competition with 96,064 votes in the final matchup.

Fat bear week
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Mary Murphy
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Mary is based out of GearJunkie's Denver, CO office. She has a degree in English and Journalism, and been writing professionally for over five years. Her outdoor interests span from running to sport climbing, from landscape photography to skiing to pack-paddleboarding. If she's not writing, you can most likely find her at the top of a fourteener, or in a local bakery.