Speaking of bears, Fat Bear Week at Katmai National Park in Alaska begins tomorrow and runs through October 10, when the Champion Fat Bear will be declared. You can go to the main site by clicking on the first screenshot below. The voting starts tomorrow with two matchups, and then two more on Wednesday. After that the matchups will be determined by the earlier winners. (There’s apparently been some preliminary voting, as you can see below, perhaps by the rangers). Each day you can vote for at least one of the bears in a pairwise matchup, and tomorrow there are two.
Choose the fattest bear of the year! Some of the largest brown bears on Earth make their home at Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Brown bears get fat to survive and Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament celebrating their success in preparation for winter hibernation.
Fat Bear Week 2023 is October 4 – October 10. Your vote decides who is the fattest of the fat. Matchups will be open for voting between 12 – 9 p.m. Eastern (9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Pacific). Download your bracket to predict your own fat bear winner.
This is a single elimination tournament. For each match-up, vote for the bear you believe best exemplifies fatness. The bear with the most votes advances to the next round. Only one will be crowned champion of Fat Bear Week. Learn more about the history of Fat Bear Week.
The overview (click to read):
You can meet and learn about all the contestant bears here.
Here’s the schedule:
And here are the first two matchups. Go to this site and vote (starting tomorrow) by clicking on your favorite Fat Bar in each pair. Spring Cub, a youngster, had a rough life
THE FIRST MATCHUP:
This is a pudgy 3.5-year-old subadult bear. Bear 428 has blond ears and grizzled, light brown fur. She is difficult to differentiate from her same-aged sister, 429.
Bear 428 is the offspring of 128 Grazer, a perennial presence at Brooks River. As a dominant mother bear, Grazer provided her cubs with consistent access to productive fishing spots at Brooks Falls. As a yearling and 2.5-year-old cub, 428 followed her mother’s lead. She took to the lip of the falls to practice fishing in a location that many bears compete for and that younger bears are often displaced from by larger bears.
As an independent bear in 2023, she navigated the river without mother’s guidance for the first time. Easy access to the lip of the falls and other productive fishing spots were no longer something she could count on. She navigated these new challenges by utilizing opportunity as it came even if opportunity came inconsistently.
806 Spring Cub
This male first-year cub has long, shaggy brown fur and a short, pointed muzzle.
There are perils and advantages of fishing near Brooks Falls. Many mother bears with young cubs shy away from the vicinity of the waterfall, but 806 did not avoid this area in 2023. She knew that Brooks Falls provides bears with their very first opportunities to fish for salmon in early summer. Coming so close to other bears at the falls, however, increased the risk to her cub’s safety.
In his efforts to remain safe, 806’s spring cub attempted to stay close to mom even if that meant entering the swift and cold river. On several occasions, he was swept downstream or over the waterfall. In a notable event in late July, his mother fell off the falls as she caught a fish, which left the cub alone momentarily. A nearby adult male then pursued and attacked the cub. Thankfully, 806 was able to return and successfully defend her offspring. Mother and cub returned frequently to the falls afterward and throughout August. With salmon abundant in mid-summer, 806’s cub grew rapidly. His story showcases the risk and reward that bears find at Brooks Falls.
Again, you can read about all these bears here. Read about them before you vote!
THE SECOND MATCHUP:
Bear 402 is a large adult female. She has medium brown fur, tan-colored claws, and crescent or apostrophe-shaped ears when viewed from front or back. During years when she is not caring for cubs, she is also quite fat in late summer and fall.
Few bears can rival 402’s maternal experience. She is the mother of at least eight litters, more than any other bear currently at Brooks River. This includes two litters of four cubs apiece. While 402 has weaned many cubs, some of which still visit Brooks River, she’s also experienced the loss of entire litters. When a mother bear loses her litter in spring or early summer, it can trigger her to become receptive to mating once again. This explains why 402 bore litters in back-to-back years such as 2007 and 2008.
Although female bears need ample fat reserves to support gestation, birth, and milk production in the den, fat is only part of the equation for maternal success. Cubs are ravenous and mothers must provision them with milk and other foods during their active seasons. Bear 402 is a skilled angler especially on the lip of Brooks Falls and often brings her cubs there. She is also an efficient scavenger of dead and dying salmon in the lower Brooks River. Even experienced mother bears experience loss, though. One of the cubs from her most recent litter disappeared in 2022. This summer, she continues to care for her single yearling. Her life illustrates the triumphs and difficulties of a long-lived mother bear.
This is a medium-sized adult female. Bear 901 has blond-rimmed, triangular ears. Her fur is golden brown in early summer and grizzled-brown in late summer.
Bear 901 was first identified as a 2.5-year-old in 2018. At the end of Fat Bear Week 2022, with 901’s body fat providing the buoyancy that raised her to the final match, many people wondered if 901 would return to Brooks River with cubs in 2023. The answer came in early summer when she arrived with three spring cubs. Bear cubs are born in mid-winter while mom hibernates. Female bears with too little body fat at the start of hibernation are unlikely to give birth, so 901’s savings account of ample body fat last year positively influenced her reproductive success.
With a family to care for, 901 expressed caution throughout much of the summer. She most often used the river mouth area where fewer bears are present instead of making frequent trips to Brooks Falls, likely to provide her cubs with more safety. In mid-September, though, one of her cubs disappeared while 901 fished in the lower Brooks River. Raising cubs is difficult for mother bears, and first-time mothers are particularly challenged to provision the family with food while keeping them safe.
I’m plumping (excuse the pun) for 806 Spring Cub, because he had it rough when he was young, and for 901, who had to take care of three babies and lost one of them.