What is Fat Bear Week, and How Did It Get Started?

During the summer, bears spend their time eating and putting on weight. Those extra pounds of fat will help sustain them through winter hibernation. Katmai National Park in Alaska has quite a few brown bears, and the rangers keep their eyes on them, like you've seen in the Yogi Bear cartoons. You can, too, with their live Bear Cam. Rangers monitor which bears are more equipped to survive hibernation, but since wild bears cannot be weighed, each bear's weight gain must be judged by their appearance. And that's where you come in. Every fall, the park stages Fat Bear Week, which is a tournament to decide which bear has gained the most weight through the summer. You are invited to select the fattest of two bears in each tournament matchup, on the way to crowning the Fat Bear of the Year. This year, there's a special runoff tournament for bear cubs on September 23 and 24. The winner of that competition will advance to the adult competition, which will be held September 29 through October 5. Bookmark the site so that you can participate when the time comes. Take a look at last year's winner!

Yes, it's true that since this is an internet poll, the ultimate winner might not actually be the fattest bear, but a fan favorite instead. That doesn't really matter, since the winning bear doesn't get a prize outside of recognition. For a bear, winter fat is its own reward. The tournament achieves its goal every year- to raise awareness of Alaska's brown bears and their struggle to survive in the modern world.

Read how Fat Bear Week came about and how it became such an internet sensation at Mental Floss.

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