October 5-11 is "Fat Bear Week," a celebration of the bears at Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska, preparing for their winter hibernation. It's sponsored by Explore.Com, which describes itself as "the world's leading philanthropic live nature cam network and documentary film channel." On their website, they explain more about the bears and how they prepare for hibernation:
Katmai's brown bears are at their fattest in late summer and early fall. It is the end-product of their summer-long effort to satisfy their profound hunger and prepare for winter hibernation. During hibernation, bears do not eat or drink and can lose one-third of their body weight. Their winter survival depends on accumulating ample fat reserves before entering the den.
To get fat, bears gorge on the richest and most easily obtainable foods they can find. In Katmai National Park, that most often means salmon. Dozens of bears gather at Brooks River to feast on salmon from late June until mid October. Perhaps no other river on Earth offers bears the chance to feed on salmon for so long.
You can scroll through the website and also watch the livecam, to find your favorite bear, and vote for them:
Select your choice by clicking or tapping on the photos of the bear. That bear will then be outlined in blue. Then enter your email where prompted. You know that you have successfully voted if you see the total votes for each bear.
You can go look at the bears here—they include Chunk, Grazer, Walker, Holly, and some who just have numbers, like 402. But how do you choose who to vote for? The website explains:
Your Fat Bear Week vote can be based on many factors. You may want to consider the tremendous growth spurts experienced by younger bears. Subadult (teenage) bears and cubs, for example, grow proportionally more each year than even the biggest adults. Perhaps you want to weigh your vote toward bears with extenuating circumstances such as a mother's cost of raising cubs or the additional challenges that older bears face as they age. A mother bear's ability to gain weight is harder compared to other bears because she must provide for herself and the welfare of her cubs. An older bear can have difficulty finding access to its preferred fishing spots due to competition with larger and younger bears. You can also vote for the bear you think is the simply the largest and fattest. In short, Fat Bear Week is a subjective competition.
One bear, four-time previous champion Otis, is already a fan favorite. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a feature story on him, describing him as a brown bear who "gorges on salmon and eyes the competition." They go on:
It's a cool July afternoon some 300 miles southwest of Anchorage. Otis is standing knee deep in the glistening Brooks River, hoping to catch one of the many red salmon journeying upstream. A breeze tousles the blond hair by his ears as he gazes intently at the water rushing by his feet. He is completely unaware that at that moment, thousands of eyes are on him. He may well be Alaska's biggest celebrity, both in popularity and in circumference.
Sounds like a champion to me! But will he win again? WSJ explains that Otis is now the underdog of the competition, as he's aging and is hardly the biggest bear out there this year:
Now approaching his late 20s, Otis is cresting the upper range of a bear's average lifespan. He isn't the largest or most dominant bear at the falls. His teeth have seen better days, with two canines missing and others worn down. That makes him a bit of an underdog, if a 1,000-pound apex predator can be considered an underdog.
Click here to read the rest of the article, and go vote for Otis if you so desire. All the bears are winners in my book!