It's almost Fat Bear Week, when online voters decide which bears have best prepared for hibernation

From September 29th to October 5th, Katmai National Park in Alaska conducts a competition to determine the fattest bear in the park, relying on voters like you to judge the fattest of the fat.

What originally began in 2014 as a one-day event (Fat Bear Tuesday) has since grown into a much-anticipated international event. About 55,000 voters participated in Fat Bear Week 2018. In 2019, that number grew to 250,000, and in 2020 it ballooned to 650,000.

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According to the Fat Bear Week website, there's a fun twist this year. A new category has been announced: fattest bear cub! I absolutely love the lineup of chubby cubs, which include both photos and backstories.

Katmai National Park's media ranger Naomi Boak spends months preparing for the competition.

"I start as soon as I get [to the park] in May taking pictures of skinny bears," she says. "Because in Fat Bear Week, we juxtapose a skinny picture with the fattest picture we can get at the end of the season, so people can see really what a great accomplishment it is for the bears to get fat to survive six months of famine."

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While you wait for voting, check out the park's livestreams to watch the park's bears catch salmon in preparation for the competition (and hibernation, of course). Here's a striking scene I witnessed on the livestream this morning.