Courtesy of the National Park Service

The first matchups of the contest kick off Sept. 30, with voting running from noon until 10 p.m. ET.

J.D. Simkins  – September 29, 2020 | Updated October 2, 2020

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Alaska’s bear population is officially in a race to tack on the extra calories needed to survive a looming winter hibernation, a time when bears go months without food and water and lose a staggering one-third of their total body weight.

Katmai National Park will once again celebrate this period of fat reserve reinforcement with the launch of its annual Fat Bear Week, a contest to determine which of the park’s renowned Brooks River brown bears will earn the coveted title of “fattest.”

“These brown bears’ power of packing on the pounds gets them through the winter and able to live to compete another year,” the National Park Service said in a release. “With or without the lasso of truth around us, our story remains the same: fat bears = healthy bears.”

As part of the festivities Katmai has unveiled its Fat Bear Week 2020 bracket, an NCAA March Madness-style, single-elimination tournament pitting the rotund behemoths against one another in contests driven by audience votes.

Twelve bears are competing for this year’s crown. Four of the 12, including last year’s plump champion Holly, will receive a bye in the first round and await the winners of the other head-to-head matchups.

Holly’s own cub joins the fray as one of this year’s contestants, with her position in the bracket setting up the possibility of the rare mother vs. cub semi-final.

Courtesy of the National Park Service

“Does Bear 747 have a chance to get his first championship by dethroning last year’s reigning champion, 435 Holly?” NPS officials posed. “Will a new bear come from the outside and topple the competition for the ultimate win? Can multi-time champ 480 Otis reclaim his spot on top for one more year? While we can’t foresee the future champion, we do know the paunchy bear will only achieve their win with all of you casting your votes.”

The first matchups of the contest, which is the product of a partnership between Katmai National Park, Katmai Conservancy, and explore.org, kick off Sept. 30, with voting running from noon until 10 p.m. ET.

Votes can be cast through the explore.org Fat Bear Week page dedicated to Fat Bear Week.

“I’m all for 747 this year!” one voter commented. “I’ve just recently started following Fat Bear Week, and after looking at the lineup it was a very hard decision between Otis, Chunk and 747, but I’ve got to go through and support my main man 747 all the way….May the best bear win, and may the odds be ever in your favor.”

A blank, printable bracket is also available for friends and family interested in friendly wagers. Additionally, voters can check in on their salmon-devouring favorites by visiting the live stream of Brooks Falls.

“Your votes decide who will wear the mantle of 2020’s Fattest Bear,” NPS officials wrote. “Remember, with great Fat Bears comes a great responsibility to vote!

“Experience the excitement of survival of the fattest.”


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