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Voting Is Open! It’s Time for Fat Bear Week

With a looming government shutdown, the National Parks Service is tentatively forging ahead with plans for this year's round of voting for Fat Bear Week.

Beadnose fat bear
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The government might be shutting down*, but the bears don’t know that. NPS employees year-round have been prepping for the momentous and beloved event that is “Fat Bear Week,” where chubby contenders and residents of Katmai National Park go head-to-head to compete for the title of “Fattest Bear.”

Winners are determined via online voting, as is the same with years past. Two years ago, NPS spiced up the event by adding a cubs-only competition, dubbed, “Fat Bear Week Junior.” Both events kick off this week, with voting for Fat Bear Week Junior beginning today at 12 p.m. EDT, and the main event beginning midweek on October 4.

Want to keep tabs on the contestants ahead of Fat Bear Week? Check out Katmai National Park’s live camera feed at the Brooks River and Brooks Falls.

How Fat Bear Week Works

Fat bear week
(Photo/NPS, Katmai National Park)

Right now, bears are in a state of hyperphagia, eating everything and anything to bulk up and prepare for hibernation this winter. In layman’s terms, brown bears get fat to survive. Fat Bear Week is an annual bracket-style tournament in celebration of these bears prepping for winter.

And celebrate we will! Each year, the National Park Service’s Fat Bear Week has grown, with upward of 20,000 people casting their online votes for winning bears each round.

You can click the link and vote for your favorite and fattest Junior bear today. For the heavyweights, you’ll have to wait until October 4. NPS will unveil the bracket of those Fat Bear Week Contestants online on October 2. (Pro tip: bookmark this page so you don’t forget to vote in each round!) Important: be sure to cast all votes between 12-9 p.m. EDT each day, and make your final votes before October 8 for Fat Bear Week.

The Fat Bear Week Finals showdown will occur online on October 10, 2023.

Editor’s note: As many others have noted online, Fat Bear Week is in jeopardy. If the federal government shuts down on Saturday night, federally managed lands and sites — like National Monuments, the National Mall, National Parks, and even National Museums — will suffer: employees will be furloughed, parks will close, and services will shut down. If a shutdown does affect Fat Bear Week, we’ll be sure to let you know.

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