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By The Way
Detours with locals. Travel tips you can trust.

What is Fat Bear Week? Everything to know about the big, beefy event.

Where to vote and how to watch your favorite bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve

(iStock/Washington Post Illustration)
6 min

’Tis the season to be jolly, and I’m not talking about Christmas. It’s Fat Bear Week, a pure and wonderful treat for people who need a break from the harsh realities of life.

The competition champions the brown bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve as they complete their transformations from scrawny to elephantine for hibernation. With the internet watching via live Bear Cams, the contestants go beast mode on the millions of sockeye salmon that run from Bristol Bay down the Brooks River.

Then it’s up to voters to interpret the “fattest.”

Meet the Fat Bear Week contenders

“There’s no real set criteria that you’re supposed to vote on,” said Mike Fitz, a resident naturalist with who started the competition in 2014. “You could vote on just simply the largest bear, or look at relative fatness or consider the extenuating circumstances of each bear’s life like the challenges of raising offspring.”

For the uninitiated, here’s everything you need to know about the week, and how to celebrate accordingly.