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Get ready for Fat Bear Week

Last year's Fat Bear Week champion Otis.
Katmai National Park and Preserve
Last year's Fat Bear Week champion Otis.

The highly anticipated annual celebration of Katmai National Park’s most rotund bears kicks off next week. Fat Bear Week returns next Wednesday with a tournament to decide the Katmai brown bear that best exemplifies “fatness.” The competition began in 2014, and has grown into a national phenomenon. 

As some of the world’s largest brown bears bulk up for the winter, the tournament gives voters a chance to celebrate the success of Katmai’s bears as they prepare for hibernation. The competition is also meant to highlight the large sockeye salmon runs of Bristol Bay. 

Last year, an older bear named Otis took the crown for the fourth time. Around 800,000 people voted in Fat Bear Week 2021.

The competition is arranged as a single elimination tournament, where the public can vote in one-on-one fat bear matchups each day until one is crowned champion. 

The brown bears up for this year’s title will be revealed in a live stream on Monday at 3 p.m. 

The warm-up competition, called Fat Bear Junior, is going on right now. A two-year-old cub called 909’s yearling is up against a litter of three cubs that were born last winter. The winning cub will compete against the adult fat bears next week. 

You can visit to vote.

Riley Board is a Report For America participant and senior reporter at KDLL covering rural communities on the central Kenai Peninsula.
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