Fat Bear Week is fast approaching, marking that special time of the year where we celebrate the fuzzy, rotund residents of Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. However this year a brand new segment has been introduced to the competition: Fat Bear Junior.
Open to “young and maturing” ursids, Fat Bear Junior is a single elimination bracket tournament to determine a champion among the bear youth demographic. The crowned cub will then go on to compete against their elders in the main Fat Bear Week tournament.
Katmai National Park and Preserve initially announced 2021’s inaugural Fat Bear Junior tournament in August, but we weren’t told exactly which baby bears would be competing. Now we know that the four pudgy teddies in the running for the title of Fat Bear Junior 2021 are Spring Cub 132, Spring Cub 909, Yearling 128, and Yearling 435.
Personally, I’m backing Spring Cub 132.
Fat Bear Week is an annual tradition that dates back to 2014, when it was known as Fat Bear Tuesday and took place on a single day. Now Fat Bear Week is a multi-day event enjoyed by thousands of people every year, each eagerly casting their ballot to determine the fattest bear of them all. Every year, Katmai National Park and Preserve’s brown bears spend their summer indulging in obscene amounts of salmon in order to bulk up for their winter hibernation.
It does feel as though Fat Bear Junior’s adolescent bears are at a considerable disadvantage in this competition, as they still aren’t done growing. Further, lugging the bears of Brooks River onto scales or scientifically analysing their proportions could unequivocally determine which furry dumptruck is the heaviest anyway.
However the title of Fat Bear champion is not decided by weight alone. Fat Bear Week is proudly a “subjective competition,” allowing voters to take into account various factors such as age and extenuating circumstances.
“You can also vote for the bear you think is the simply the largest and fattest,” notes the official Fat Bear Week website. “Be sure to vote and campaign for your favorite candidate.”
Voting on Fat Bear Junior will be open from Sept. 23 to 24, with Fat Bear Week running from Sept. 29. to Oct. 5.