Fat Bear Junior Week Is Here

Fat Bear Junior Week Is Here
Image: National Park Service, C. Spencer, L. Law, N. Boak

The only thing better than a bear is a fat bear, and the only thing better than a fat bear is a fat bear cub. That’s why I’m stoked to announce that right now, fat bear cubs are currently having a moment. Welcome to the first-ever Fat Bear Junior competition.

Every autumn, the National Park Service holds Fat Bear Week to allow people vote for the chunkiest brown bear at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It’s a way to honour the months that bears spend building up their body fat to prepare for hibernation. Fat Bear Week is always the best time of year. And in 2021, it’s even better because of a little spinoff competition happening now as a warm-up.

Bear cubs are going head-to-head for a chance to be dubbed the fattest baby bear of the Brooks River. (“Baby” is relative here, of course.) The stakes are high, because the winner will enter the adult bracket, which begins next Wednesday. That’s right — one cub will go up against the grown bears. Since voting began on Thursday, two bear cubs have already been eliminated, and the polls are only open until Friday at 9 p.m. ET, so head over, quick!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t introduce you to the charming contestants, who bear — sorry, bare — the names of their mums, 132 and 128. First, there’s Bear 132’s spring cub, who appeared in a viral video earlier this month and is one of two surviving members of a three-cub litter who showed up to the Brooks River in July. He’s a real charmer who has spent time around people, because Bear 132 brought her kids near the visitors to Katmai’s Brooks Lodge. He’s got a big mat of chocolately fur and a luxurious, droopy belly.

Image: Explore.org, National Park Service & Katmai Conservancy, Other Image: Explore.org, National Park Service & Katmai Conservancy, Other

Then, there’s 128 yearling. She has a twin sister and thick, blondish fur. She’s a bit precocious: She learned to catch her own salmon from the Brooks waterfall in Katmai National Park. The NPS notes, with sounds like a bit of Katmai pride, that “No other yearling bear in memory of park staff has successfully and regularly caught fish on the lip of Brooks Falls.”

You can learn more about them both on the park’s website and look for them on Explore.org’s live bear cams. There’s no way to make a wrong choice: The contest is subjective, and officials say you can base your decision on basically whatever you want. Just make sure to get your vote in before polls close!