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Health, Science and Environment

Fat Bear Week Is Here. Take A Look At What To Expect And How You Can Celebrate

Easy to see how Bear 128 got into this year's Fat Bear Week 2021 competition.
Easy to see how Bear 128 got into this year's Fat Bear Week 2021 competition.

If you're looking for some beary good news, look no further: Fat Bear Week 2021 is finally here.

Described as a "celebration of success and survival," Fat Bear Week spotlights the resilience, adaptability and strength of the brown bears at Katmai National Park & Preserve in Alaska, the park's Amber Kraft told NPR via email.

The annual competition, which started off as Fat Bear Tuesday seven years ago, shows how the bears get as fat as they can to prepare for winter hibernation.

Fat Bear Tuesday was such a success that it expanded into Fat Bear Week, said Kraft, who is Katmai's interpretation and education program manager.

In other words, it's the pawfect distraction from everything in life right now and gives us a chance to appreciate the wonderful nature offered by southern Alaska.

So, you may be wondering, how exactly does this contest work? It's simple.

The participating bears are matched against each other in a March Madness-style competition (single-elimination), where online visitors can vote for a Fat Bear Week 2021 champion.

In the end, the last two very fat bears will face off for the title of "Fattest Bear," which takes place on (yup, you guessed it) Fat Bear Tuesday.

The official Fat Bear Week 2021 bracket. The competition is styled as single-elimination, similar to NCAA's "March Madness."
/ National Park Service
The official Fat Bear Week 2021 bracket. The competition is styled as single-elimination, similar to the NCAA's March Madness.

Fans can vote for their favorite bear on Explore.org. And if you just can't get enough bear content, you can watch the bears every day via LiveCam on the Brooks River in Katmai.

The bear matchups will be open for voting 12 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (9 a.m.-6 p.m. PT).

"All bears are winners but only one true champion will emerge," NPS said.

There are some 2,200 bears in Katmai National Park & Preserve, as more bears than people are estimated to live on the Alaska Peninsula, the National Park Service said.

Where the park is located, according to the NPS, is a "wild region" — having the "largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet."

Last year's Fat Bear Week winner, Bear 747, is in the competition this year. In September 2020, he weighed an estimated 1,400 pounds — and he's at least that big this year, according to Explore.org.

Fat Bear Week takes place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.