Animals

This National Park In Alaska Is Celebrating Fat Bear Week With Adorable Bear Photos

Hibernation season is just around the corner!

Hibernation season is almost upon us, which means it’s also Fat Bear Week at Katmai National Park and Preserve. This is the fourth year in a row that the national park in King Salmon, Alaska has hosted this good-natured competition to celebrate the start of hibernation season.

In the “contest,” brown bears often seen on the park’s Bear Cam are pitted against each other to see who looks the fattest from bulking up on salmon for the long winter. (Of course, we don’t know how much they actually weigh — they’re wild animals, after all!) The public can cast their vote through the park’s Facebook page via head-to-head matches. The matches began on Oct. 3 and will continue daily. Finally, only one champion will remain, and the bear with the most likes will be crowned “Fattest Bear” on Oct. 9 — otherwise known as Fat Bear Tuesday.

Of course, the bears do not put on extra weight because they have had one too many donuts. Bears fatten up in preparation to sustain themselves throughout hibernation. In the brown bears that live at Katmai National Park, large amounts of body fat indicate good health and a superior ability to survive the long and cold hibernation period, which can last for up to half the year. Bears typically lose about a third of their body weight during hibernation, so it’s essential that they gain the proper amount before settling in for a long winter’s nap.

Katmai’s bears have ID numbers as well as names. The first day of competition ended with 409 Beadnose beating out 151 Walker. On Friday morning, she will advance to face 480 Otis, who is the reigning champion from last year’s competition and a beloved social media star. On Friday afternoon, 854 Divot beat out 503 and will go paw to paw with 435 Holly.

Check out the awesome March Madness-style bracket below:

Who’s your money on to win it all?

If competition is not your thing, you can still check out some super-cute bear antics on the Bear Cam and get to know these furry beasts yourself. Check out these awesome bears captured on video belly-flopping off a waterfall:

Of course, you could always plan a visit to Katmai National Park in Alaska’s southern peninsula and watch for bears yourself!