Fat Bear Week

Fat Bear Week Bracket featuring 480 Otis as the 2021 champion
480 Otis takes the title of Fat Bear Week Champion for the 4th time.

Fat Bear Week- an annual celebration of success. All bears are winners but only one true champion will emerge. Held over the course of seven days and concluding on the Fat Bear Tuesday, people chose which bear to crown in this March-Madness style bracket where bears are pitted against each other for your vote.

Why fat matters

From its humble beginnings of Fat Bear Tuesday in 2014 to nearly 800,000 votes cast last year in 2021, celebrating fat bears and Katmai's healthy ecosystem has since become a tradition. For bears, fat equals survival. Each winter, bears enter the den where they will not eat or drink until they emerge in spring. During this time, they may lose up to one-third of their body weight as they rely solely on their fat reserves. Survival depends on eating a year's worth of food in six months.

At Katmai, bears are drawn to the large number of salmon readily available from roughly late June through September. Salmon have long since been the lifeblood of the area, supporting Katmai's people, bears and other animals. Fat bears exemplify the richness of this area, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.

How it works

Rangers create a March-Madness style bracket pitting individual bears against each other. The public then votes to see who will advance each round. Voting takes place over several days on explore.org's website. People may vote using any criteria they see fit. In the end, one bear will reign supreme.

2021 Fat Bear Week

This year, Fat Bear Week starts September 29 and concludes on Fat Bear Tuesday, October 5. In addition to voting during this week-long tournament, there will be a series of online chats on explore.org featuring Mike Fitz, explore.org's resident naturalist, and rangers from Katmai to learn more about the individual bears and Katmai's healthy ecosystem. Throughout the season, you can also tune in to the explore.org bear cams which offer unprecedented access to the lives the bears of Brooks River. There are also special live events on a variety of topics hosted weekly as well.

Be sure to check out the slider comparison photos of this year's competitors.

Fat Bear Junior

New in 2021: the Fat Bear Junior competition. Four chubby cubbies compete for the chance to advance to the main bracket and compete against the more senior burly bears of the Brooks River.

Take a look at the competitors from 2021 and see the first Fat Bear Junior champion- 132's spring cub.

Fat Bear Week in the Classroom

Looking to bring Fat Bear Week into the classroom? Check out some of these extension activities from Katmai as well as the explore.org curriculum.

Past champions

2014 - 480 Otis
2015 - 409 Beadnose
2016 - 480 Otis
2017 - 480 Otis
2018 - 409 Beadnose
2019 - 435 Holly
2020 - 747
2021 - Fat Bear Junior: 132's spring cub. Fat Bear Week 2021: 480 Otis

Last updated: April 27, 2022

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