A bear feasts on the salmon run at Katmai National Park and Preserve on July 13, 2021. (Courtesy of Lian Law, National Parks Service)

A bear feasts on the salmon run at Katmai National Park and Preserve on July 13, 2021. (Courtesy of Lian Law, National Parks Service)

Bears show off full bellies at Katmai for Fat Bear Week

KENAI — The bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve are preparing to show the world their beefy bodies starting today for this year’s Fat Bear Week.

Lian Law, the visual information specialist at the park, said Fat Bear Week is a celebration of success for these animals and the ecosystem in which they live.

“Our place is kind of an outlier,” she said Tuesday, noting that Katmai has one of the largest and healthiest sockeye salmon runs in the world.

According to the National Parks Service, “fat bears exemplify the richness of this area, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people.”

Fat Bear Week is an online March Madness-style tournament in which people from all over choose what they think is the heftiest bear — if they guess right, they continue on and if they don’t they’re out. Law said the competition is completely “subjective.”

This is the seventh annual tournament, and Law said it has grown in popularity since its conception when it started as just “Fat Bear Tuesday” in 2014.

“Our bear cams have the potential to reach so many people,” Law said. “Our engagement has grown so much.”

In 2019 more than 200,000 votes were cast in the tournament, according to the Washington Post. But last year that number skyrocketed to over 600,000.

Law said the tournament is also a way to unite people who may never be able to visit Katmai or see the bears in person.

In addition to the online competition, officials at the national park will be offering programming throughout the week. Law said that will include bear cam footage, virtual classrooms and a live question-and-answer forum with Katmai rangers.

Law said the success of the summer feast is felt by many people.

“People seem drawn to these bears,” she said.

Voting kicks off with the first matchup between bears 435 and 128, as well as the second matchup between bears 151 and 634. Voting takes place between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. AKDT on Wednesday. To cast a vote, visit explore.org/fat-bear-week.

More programming and information can be found on the Katmai National Park and Preserve’s social media accounts, as well as on YouTube and Flickr.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

More in News

Goldbelt Transportation and Allen Marine Tours will contract with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to provide ferry service through the Southeast for the remainder of the winter, according to a news release. (Courtesy photo / Goldbelt Transportation)
Goldbelt, Allen Marine pick up winter ferry contracts

Contracts were signed this January for several winter runs to Southeast communities.

Donated blood is prepared for storage and eventual transport at the Blood Bank of Alaska's Juneau location. There is a statewide shortage of donated blood. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
‘National blood crisis’ presents challenges in Alaska

Donation centers contend with COVID, weather and other disruptions as they work to stock hospitals.

It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This picture shows recent editions of the Juneau Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
It's a police car until you look closely and see the details don't quite match. (Juneau Empire File / Michael Penn)
Police calls for Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Pathfinder to Point Louisa, Auke Recreation Area on Jan. 3. (Courtesy Photo / Kenneth Gill, gillfoto).
Wild Shots: Photos of Mother Nature in Alaska

Reader-submitted photos of Southeast Alaska.

In this satellite image taken by Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite, and released by the agency, shows an undersea volcano eruption at the Pacific nation of Tonga Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022. An undersea volcano erupted in spectacular fashion near the Pacific nation of Tonga on Saturday, sending large waves crashing across the shore and people rushing to higher ground. (Japan Meteorology Agency)
Update: Tsunami advisory canceled for Southeast Alaska

It applies to Southeast from the BC border to Cape Fairweather.

Most Read