Fat Bear Week in Katmai National Park

What is Fat Bear Week in Alaska?

Fat Bear Week in Alaska takes place every October and is organized by the National Park Service, Katmai Conservancy and explore.orgIt is an annual tournament where the brown bears of Alaska’s Katmai National Park compete in a tournament to determine the fattest bear.

Each year, during the week long tournament, thousands of people vote for the largest bear in Katmai National Park in Alaska.

Why are the bears so fat?

These fat bears have spent the entire spring and summer eating and preparing themselves for their long winter hibernation. And, the fatter a bear gets, the more fat reserves they will have to survive the long hibernation process.

In 2022, the Fat bear week tournament ran from October 5 to October 11, when the winner was announced. A total of twelve bears competed for supreme Fatness. They are identified by their number or a name and number. This tournament has produced some real “Stars” who have become well known in the bear world. Some of these well known bears include Holly, Otis & Beadnose.

Fat Bear Week Champion – 2022

After more than 100,000 votes, 747, a huge adult male with a blocky muzzle and a floppy right ear was declared the winner of Fat bear Week 2022. 

747 is estimated to weigh more than 1,400 pounds (636 kg). 747 is one of biggest brown bears ever seen in Katmai National Park. And after half a year eating, this large adult male won the hearts, the votes to become champion of Fat Bear Week for the second time.

Fat Bear Week Winner 2022

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How to vote in Fat Bear Week Contest

If you want to participate in Fat Bear Week, you can vote for your favorite fat bear online, but only during the week in October the contest is run.

Go to explore.org, to see live Bear Cams and read about the contestants. You’ll see spring time photos for comparison as well as their current, much fatter selves. Then select the image of the bear you are choosing for the round, and enter your email address.

The bears with the most votes advance to the next round.

Keep in mind that during the rest of the summer and fall, you can still view the bears at Brooks Falls on the online bearcams!

If you want to help support the fat bears, you can donate to the Katmai Conservancy here.

Where does Fat bear week take place?

Fat Bear week bears live in Katmai National Park in Alaska. Katmai is one of eight national Parks in Alaska. It is famous for its incredible population of brown bears.

Katmai National Park

Katmai National park is the home of big brown bear and is probably one of the best bear viewing spots in Alaska. But beyond it’s amazing bears, it is also famous for its spectacular scenery, including at least 14 volcanoes withing its boundaries. Katmai is included in the northern edge of the Pacific Ring of Fire. This is the zone of volcanoes that surround the Pacific Ocean.

Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska has a great diversity of wildlife and covers millions of acres with wild rivers and streams, broad green glacial hewn valleys, rugged coastlines, Naknek Lake, and active glaciers and volcanoes.

Brooks River and Brooks Falls in Katmai National Park is known as the best bear viewing place in all of Alaska. The sockeye salmon in the river attract the bears because it is easy fishing for them, allowing them to feast regularly. The salmon run begins in early July, and the bears quickly make their way to the river to get their fill of salmon. Not only does this attract bear, but it also attracts thousands of tourist each year to observe this incredible sight.

Considering the large number of bears in the area, the Brooks river is also one of the best fishing spots, particularly for fly fishing. Brooks Lodge was actually built originally to host fly fishermen. But now It hosts just as many visitors who are there just to see the largest brown bears in Alaska.

If you can’t make it to Katmai National Park, you can still keep an eye of the bears with the Brooks Falls Bearcam. 

Fat Bear Week - Past Champions

Why are the bears so fat?

Survival of the fattest. Yes, you heard right! Getting fat is the survival strategy for bears. They eat all day long to prepare for their winter hibernation. Katmai National Park rangers say that a Brooks River bear can catch up to 30 salmon per day in their efforts to gain the most weight before winter. They do this by staying in one spot and taking advantage of abundant fish migrating up the river. They need this excess weight because they can lose 20-40% of their body fat during their long hibernation, which is typically 5-7 months without food or water. During their hibernation a bears heart rate, body temperature and metabolism is much lower than normal.

How did Fat Bear Week Start?

Mike Fitz, a Katmai Park Ranger and resident naturalist, started Fat bear week in 2014 as a way to bring awareness to the bears of Katmai National Park. Fitz and a team of rangers organized a one-day live event on the park’s Facebook page where the viewers would vote on the fattest bear. Originally called Fat Bear Tuesday, Fitz saw what an enormous response he received. So, in 2015, the Fat Bear Week Contest was extended to a week long, single-elimination tournament, with March madness-style brackets!

In 2020, Fitz and Katmai National Park rangers partnered with Explore.org to increase their reach beyond their Facebook audience. That decision paid off and in 2021 over 800,000 votes were cast in Fat Bear Week. In 2022, there was another huge jump in popularity and over 1 Million votes were cast.

This even lead to a fake voting scandal…

Fat bear week Fake Voting Scandal In 2022

Bear 747 was crowned as the Fat Bear Week Champion in 2022. But for the first time, there was a scandal with the fat bear week poll. There was an attack of spam bots that gained access to the system and and cast fake spam votes. According to the national park, the fraudulent votes were an attempt to stuff the ballot box for Holly. The park removed the fake votes, updated the totals for the day, and bear 747 was promoted to the next round of voting with 37,940 votes.

Mike Fitz, the founder of fat bear week, said the fake votes totaled to several thousand for Holly.

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