Heavyweight champ

Fat Bear Week 2021: Meet the 12 contestants

May the chunkiest bear win.

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It’s time to break out your brackets for the biggest competition of the year: Fat Bear Week.

Katmai National Park and Preserve

Officials at Katmai National Park and Preserve in King Salmon, Alaska host an online vote every year to determine which resident takes the title of heftiest bear in the park.

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Fat Bear Week is a beloved, national spectacle that sheds light on a natural biological process that all bears go through.

Around late summer, bears get really chunky as they pack on pounds in preparation for winter.

The scientific name for this phenomenon is hyperphagia, a condition where bears’ brains tell them to eat nonstop so that they’ll bulk up for hibernation.

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Here’s 2020 runner-up Bear 32, aka Chunk, in July and then in September.

NPS/T Carmack/N Boak

This year’s competition will see many of the previous year’s favorites. That includes 747, the 2020 fat bear champion who’s named after a jumbo jet.

“It’s fun, it’s entertaining for us to watch — but they will lose one-third of their body mass during winter hibernation.”

Andrew LaValle, Katmai park ranger, to Inverse during Fat Bear Week 2018.

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Here are the 12 contenders for this year’s title. Blank brackets are available here.

Katmai National Park/NPS

So, who should you vote for?

There is no official criteria, according to the official Fat Bear Week FAQ. Maybe you want to give kudos to a novice competitor or cast your ballot for whoever has had the most stunning transformation.

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Voting opens September 29 on the Fat Bear Week website. The 2021 winner will be crowned, virtually, on October 5.

May the fattest bear win!

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