Fat Bear Week Is Back

Gif: exploreorg, Twitter

Hot girl summer is all but over, but "fat bear fall" has arrived.

The hotties of Katmai National Park and Preserve are about to face off as Fat Bear Week begins on Thursday. And frankly, I am here for it. In raging torrent that is our world unravelling, we all need to grab onto something to stay afloat. In my case, it’s the love handles of the bodacious brown bears of the Brooks River.

Fat Bear Week is a competition where the internet gets to vote on the fattest bear of Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. But above all, it is also a celebration of all things “fat” and “bear.”

In springtime, the bears of Katmai emerged from hibernation as shadows of their late autumn selves, having spent all winter snoozing and living off the fat they stored up. Once hibernation is over, the bears engaged in a race against time to pack on the pounds in preparation for winter. The girthy ursines have spent all summer chowing down on salmon, berries, and whatever else they can get their claws on. Anyone with an internet connection has been able to watch their transformation on webcams run by explore.org, and now we all have a chance to vote on who has become the fattest bear of the Brooks River.

The park has set up a single-elimination bracket, similar to March Madness but, you know, with fat bears. Folks can vote on Facebook for their favourite bears, and a winner will be crowned next Wednesday — or, as it’s known on the Gregorian calendar, Fat Bear Wednesday. This marks the fifth year the park has opened up the competition to the world (in 2014, rangers began celebrating it by letting park visitors vote).

Beadnose, last year’s winner and subscriber to the hot girl summer ethos before it was a thing, isn’t part of this year’s competition. She hasn’t been seen this summer, which in the wilds of Alaska is usually a sign she’s gone to that salmon-filled river in the sky. But the competition does include monster bears of years past, including the aptly named 747 and Chunk as well as threepeat champion Otis.

Katmai scientists will also do a more scientific assessment beyond the internet vote (shocking, I know), conducting 3D scans of the bears to gauge just how fat they really are. But while science is great and all, Fat Bear Week is really about what you feel in your heart.

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