Fat Bear Week has begun: Here’s what to know about voting and how you can take part
Thirty-two “Chunk,” an adult male brown bear, has a look that would send even the most grizzled of foes running. His huge size, coupled with the gnarly scars on his face, suggest a difficult past. But while those qualities might help him survive in the wild, it’s yet to be seen whether they’ll be enough for him to prevail in this year’s Fat Bear Week.
The annual competition, hosted by Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve, sees 12 of the park’s brown bears duke it out for the title of fattest, and (subjectively) best, bear. It’s a battle hosted online and judged through votes from the public. Seasonal timing is a key part of the contest, as the bears are currently recovering from a scarce spring by packing on the pounds pre-hibernation.
Fat Bear Week began in 2014, after former park ranger Mike Fitz noticed the public interest in livestreams of the bears feeding at the river. Since then, the event has amassed something of a cult following on platforms like Reddit and Twitter. But there’s an added spotlight on the phenomenon this year. The potential government shutdown, which was narrowly averted on Sunday, almost brought the competition to a halt, as national park operations would’ve shuttered. For anyone just finding out about Fat Bear Week, here’s everything you need to know about the voting process.
How (and when) to vote
October 4 was Fat Bear Week’s official start date, and finals will take place on October 10. Voting is held on the official Fat Bear Week website from 12 noon to 9 p.m. EST. The process is simple: Observe the source images of the two bears, which demonstrate their impressive physical transformations from summer to fall. Then click on the bear that strikes your fancy, and confirm you’re not a robot.
That’s it—you should be able to see the total vote counts once you’ve cast your digital ballots.
Fat Bear Week is organized in a bracket format and typically includes two matchups each day until the finals. Two winners emerged (October 19, 2023), with 806 Jr. prevailing over 428 “Svetlana” and 901 knocking 402 out. On Thursday, the early victors will face stiffer competition: 806 Jr. is set to face 32 “Chunk,” while 901 has the tougher job of contending with four-time-winner 408 “Otis.”
Today, the public can cast their votes on an additional two matchups. The slated contests are 128 “Grazer” versus 151 “Walker” alongside 284 “Electra” versus 164 “Bucky Dent.”
“Vanquished last year by the volume of Holly’s rolls, 164 is back for another #FatBearWeek!” the website’s description of the second poll reads. “This year, his competitor 384 Electra makes her #FatBearWeek debut. Can this boldly bodacious babe bounce 164 out of the bracket? Or will 164, the cheeky charmer, carve out a victory like he carves out success at the Falls?”