It’s Fat Bear Week and America’s Most Body Positive Contest Is About to Declare a Winner

Holly, also known as the Queen of Corpulence, is defending her title.

A brown bear in Katmai National Park, in southern Alaska./Zuma

This piece was originally published in the Guardian and appears here as part of our Climate Desk Partnership.

Deep into a tumultuous and often harrowing year, it will be a relief to many that America has now finally arrived at a cherished annual highlight: fat bear week.

Voting has begun in—perhaps—this year’s most eagerly anticipated election, where members of the public pick their favorite of the fattened bears now waddling around the Brooks river in Katmai national park, in southern Alaska.

Only one bear will emerge victorious in the knockout elimination contest, which pits 12 plump ursine contenders against each other. Katmai national park calls the contest a “March Madness-style competition,” with the crucial difference that it involves gazing at pictures of podgy bears in the tundra and forests of Alaska rather than cheering on college basketball-playing humans.

The poll involves some genuine heavyweight contenders, including defending champion Holly, also known as the Queen of Corpulence. She will have to beat a field that includes Otis, a seasoned competitor with an impeccable pedigree, having won fat bear week twice previously.

The first round will involve voting to pick between bear 151, known by the National Park Service as “big bootied” Walker, and bear 856, a contender that has the advantage, the NPS said, of “overbearing obesity.”

The brown bears are so portly due to a crucial process, called hyperphagia, they go through before hibernation. During this stage it’s impossible for the bears to feel full, meaning they put on a significant amount of weight from gorging on salmon and other foods.

Adult male bears in Katmai are among the largest in the world, usually weighing around 600 to 900 pounds but ballooning to more than 1,000 pounds for their winter dormancy. This extra weight is important because a bear can lose up to a third of its body mass during hibernation. Putting on a large amount of weight, in this instance, is vital for good health.

Voting is taking place here, culminating in a final “fat bear Tuesday” on 6 October.

More Mother Jones reporting on Climate Desk

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate