Bears are ferocious apex predators, capable of ripping their prey apart with teeth and claws. They are also extremely cute, even when their adorable bear faces are stained with blood from the carcasses of the other, equally adorable animals they’ve just killed. In fact, eating cuddly-looking seal, deer, and rabbits only makes bears more delightful as evidenced by the pre-hibernation festivities of Fat Bear Week.
Promoted by Alaska’s Katmai National Park social media accounts, Fat Bear Week celebrates the champion bear preppers of the park’s Brooks River who have managed to pack on the most pounds while getting ready for winter’s arrival. Katmai runs a full-on tournament bracket, open for votes on its Facebook page, in order to determine which of fall 2019's bears have best captured the world’s hearts (and fish stocks).
The competition is heated, pitting diligent hunters like the first round’s reigning champ “480 Otis” and challenger “775 Lefty,” described as a “cool customer” and “nervous [Nelly]” respectively, against one another.
While we wait for those results to come in, a second round is also underway featuring “working mom 402" against—and we must stress that these are the Park’s words, not ours—”sexy single sow 854.”
At the time of writing, the third round—”the congenial 151" coming up “against the combative 128"—has just begun, as has the fourth, the junior league.
In order to win, the bears tussle over good fishing territory and, we imagine, raid pic-a-nic baskets filled with cooking lard, protein powder, and comically oversized honey jars.
The judging involves collecting 3D scans of big flabby bear bodies, a process that allows park staff to monitor the population’s health and share excellent images of bright-green tubby ursine bodies suspended in digital space.
Despite the intense focus required by the bears themselves, nature live streaming site Explore.org has been allowing human onlookers to bask in the glory of Fat Bear Week’s most distinguished competitors while tweeting short biographies that highlight each magnificent beast.
Katmai National Park has also been good enough to remind everyone that if we’d like to enjoy this most special of fall events for years to come, we need to protect the carbo-loading bears’ ecosystems and clean water supply. Look into Otis’ enormous face, wet with river water and fish guts, to understand just how essential a request they’re making.
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