The temperatures in Alaska’s Katmai National Park are falling, but the competition between its population of brown bears is heating up—on the internet, at least. As The New York Times reports, the National Park Service is in the midst of its an online tournament where wildlife lovers can vote on their favorite fat bear in Katmai. The NPS has also set up live webcams for watching the bears in the park. The competition wraps up today, when one lucky animal is crowned as the Fattest Bear.
The annual competition coincides with an important stage in the bears’ yearly cycle of hibernation: Each June, millions of sockeye salmon migrate up the park’s rivers, and bears gather in Brooks Falls to gorge themselves on passing fish. The bears can gain up to four pounds a day, and the added bulk helps sustain them through their months-long dormant period in the winter, when they’ll lose up to a third of their body mass. The bears begin to enter their dens for the winter during the months of October and November, and they look pretty huge:
At peak season, brown bears can add up to four pounds of weight a day.
Bear 409 looks like she had no trouble with that. (Yes, this is the same bear. We’re screaming.) pic.twitter.com/Wk1gSjDReX
— Katmai National Park (@KatmaiNPS) October 5, 2018
There are over 2,000 bears in the park, but the Fattest Bear competition has had a few perennial contenders since it launched in 2015. A 22-year-old giant named Otis, for example, has won two of the last three years (he was knocked out in the second roun this year, though). The final round is happening today, and bears 409 and 747 are vying for the title. Voting wraps up at 3pm Alaska time, and you can cast your ballot on the Katmai National Park Facebook page.