The only good bear is a fat bear.
Kidding. All bears are good, no matter their girth. But fat bears occupy a special spot in the pantheon of ursine beauty. So let us praise and honor them and their spheroid forms on the most blessed of weeks in the Year of the Round Boy: Fat Bear Week.
After a summer of gorging on salmon for the cameras as well as berries, ground squirrels and whatever else they can find to fill their bellies, the brown bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve have reached peak round boy status. They’ve packed on hundreds of pounds over the course of Alaska’s short summer. It’s not just for looks either. The fatter the bear, the better the chance it has of surviving hibernation through the long Alaskan winter.
Katmai rangers began celebrating the bears’ prodigious pound packing in 2014. Back then, there was just one day to pay homage to the bears’ efforts: Fat Bear Tuesday. And you had to be at the park to do so, with rangers printing out before and after photos of some of the park’s 2,000 bears that visitors could vote on to decide which bear was indeed the fattest.
Oh, how times have changed. Now anyone with an internet connection can look at the 12 chosen fatties and vote on their favorite every day of Fat Bear Week starting on Wednesday (that’s today) in a March Madness-style bracket.
This year’s bracket includes past champions and newcomers. They are all round. They are all Very Good. Why anyone would want to kill them using inhumane means (cough Ryan Zinke cough) is beyond me.
The matchups are decided by liking the Facebook photo of the two bears facing off in any given round. The heavyweights have a bye in the first round and will show up in round two. Fan favorite (and aptly-named) 747 who the park notes has a belly that “barely makes clearance with the ground” and threepeat champ Otis lie in wait for the challengers. The winner will be crowned next Tuesday on Fat Bear Tuesday, which honestly should be a federally recognized holiday.
Likes may decide the winner, but the comments on the the fatty bruins show there are no losers on Fat Bear Week. To wit, some comments on a round one matchup between Beadnose (2016's fattest bear) and Walker where the latter is being absolutely crushed under Beadnose’s ponderous posterior:
“Oh, Beady, nicely done! Walker did well, too, so I nominate him for Best Playmate! ❤️”
“Walker.. You are still my favorite bear. Beady just beat you this round, but I’m hopeful for your pound packing next year! ❤️”
“Walker you burned off too many calories chasing bears out of your spot. Advice for next year... stay put. Still luv ya!”
It’s like reading a comment section full of encouraging Facebook moms, and I am 100 percent here for this version of the internet. Maybe 2019 can just be the Year of the Fat Bear.