While we'd never ever condone fat-shaming, there's a wonderfully plump exception, said exception being Alaska's Katmai National Park and Preserve's Fat Bear Week competition. And there's no real shaming here, as Katmai's website states, "For bears, fat equals survival." We'd like to believe that us gorging on Flamin' Hot Cheetos also equals survival, but apparently, that's "different."
While Fat Bear Week gives us a fun-loving look at how Alaskan brown bear bodies drastically change as the winter hibernation months approach (and by that we mean, they start looking pretty blubbery), it's also a "celebration of success and survival" for the breed. In 2014, people couldn't get enough of the husky stars of Katmai's Fat Bear Tuesday, so naturally, Fat Bear Week was born. But what is the annual beauty pageant, so to speak? And how can you cast your vote for your favorite fat Teddy? We've got you covered.
What on Earth is Fat Bear Week and how can you cast your vote?
Amazingly, an adult male brown bear can consume more than 30 fish a day, weighing more than half a ton as autumn wraps up. Considering the park houses approximately 2,200 bears and is in an area that's "home to more brown bears than people," according to the Katmai National Park Service, it couldn't pass up the opportunity to showcase the salmon-devouring efforts made by brown bears during the fall months, all in a March Madness-style competition.
The contestants, obviously oblivious to the fact that they are contestants, can be viewed on Katmai's social media pages, as well as on its website. After several head-to-head matches from Sept. 29 to Oct. 5, the latter being Fat Bear Tuesday, one bear will (unknowingly) be crowned "Fattest Bear." More than a whopping 650,000 people voted during 2020's Fat Bear Week competition. You can cast your 2021 vote at Explore.org.
"Everyone was just amazed by it," Katmai Conservancy's project and media manager, Sara Wolman, gushed to USA Today regarding Fat Bear Week. "In a world where we're constantly experiencing things like climate change, that really hit a note with people." That makes a lot of sense, considering at its heart, Fat Bear Week aims to admire a natural beauty doing what it's supposed to do in an environment it's supposed to be in. What a concept.
Last year saw hefty Bear 747 get hailed as "Fattest Bear," and he's back this year to crush the competition. Some of 2021's other competing Brooks River fatties include Chunk, a dominant male, Grazer, a ready-to-fight mama, and Holly, who's both an adoptive and biological mother, as well as the Fat Bear Week 2019 champion. All of these beauties have before and after photos online exhibiting their glorious weight gain.
"All bears are winners, but only one true champion will emerge," the NPS hilariously stated. We encourage you to take part and cast your vote in the only ethical fat-judging contest we can think of.