Few things in life can be counted on, but we can all count on the bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska to bulk up with ease come October. Fat Bear Week is back in 2021, and the list of possible victors is as hefty as ever. Fat Bear Week, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, celebrates the fruits of Katmai’s resident bears’ efforts as their summer of eating results in a near-sphere-like body come October. The annual Fattening is a life-saving transformation in a brown bear’s life as it prepares them for the season ahead before anyone has a chance to pipe in with their unsolicited thoughts about bear BMI.
Brown bears can gain roughly 1.8 kilos (4 pounds) every day during the summer months as they enter hyperphagia, which is effectively an eating marathon with the goal of establishing large fat storage. The Katmai’s abundant yearly salmon flow, which saw a record number of fish pass through in 2020, aids the increasing waistline. While the sockeye salmon is not the fattest of the salmon species, (the king salmon takes the cake), it’s a good snack for attempting to gain weight, and given how many of them pass through each year, it’s easy to see how the yearly feast produces such cuddly effects.
Once primed and plump, the bears will take a six-month hiatus from salmon fishing, during which time they can lose up to a third of their body weight. It’s not a given that a bear will survive hibernation, therefore going into your slumber with plenty of fat reserves can be crucial if a bear is to re-emerge the following spring.
As a result, chubby bears are cause for celebration, and Katmai’s 2021 Fat Bear Week Competition looks promising for this year’s competitors. The winners of the 2019 and 2020 competitions, 435 Holly and 747, respectively, show no signs of slimming down as the 2021 tournament begins. With blonde hair, that rivals that of a pizzly bear, 128 Grazer and 131 have been turning heads among the IFLScience staff. Here you may see all of the bears in their full magnificence.
The year 2021 also offered a new level of competition, as the park’s baby bears competed for the first time in a junior event. The Spring Cub team from 132 placed first, earning them a spot in the adult tournament. Voting begins on September 29 at 9 a.m. (PT), so keep an eye on the results as they come in and vote for your favorite! May the odds always be in your favor, fat bear?