Alaska’s beloved ‘Fat Bear Week’ roars on after government shutdown averted

While bears in one of Alaska’s beloved national parks prepare to fatten up for winter slumber, online visitors prepare to vote on which bear is ultimately crowned the Fat Bear Week 2023 Champion.

Katmai National Park’s annual “Fat Bear Week,” officially kicks off Wednesday and runs through Oct. 10. 

The week celebrates the resilience, adaptability and strength of Katmai’s brown bear population as the animals prepare to hibernate, according to the National Park Service. 

“Over the course of the week, virtual visitors learn more about the lives and histories of individual bears while also gaining a greater understanding of Katmai’s ecosystem through a series of live events hosted on explore.org,” the park states on its website.

ALASKA’S BELOVED ‘FAT BEAR WEEK’ COULD BE THREATENED BY GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN

This year’s “Fat Bear Week” was threatened by a potential government shutdown since national park employees count and release the votes. Congress ultimately reached a 45-day agreement Saturday to fund the federal government. 

The National Park Service estimates that 2,200 brown bears inhabit the park, a number exceeding the people who live on the peninsula. They have six to eight months to eat a year’s worth of food and ensure their survival through winter, according to the service.

The Katmai brown bears are famous for standing at Brooks Falls, catching sockeye salmon in their mouths to fatten up for the winter. They’re a huge draw for the park on the Alaska Peninsula, the arm of land extending from Alaska’s southwest corner toward the Aleutian Islands, about 250 miles southwest of Anchorage.

The spectacle draws so many visitors that three viewing stands have been erected near the falls, along with a bridge and boardwalk over the Brooks River to allow visitors to avoid the bears.

FAT BEAR WEEK 2022 CHAMPION CROWNED, VOTER FRAUD ROCKED COMPETITION

Fat bear week 2022 competitor

Photo of bear #901 fishing in a river during Fat Bear Week 2022. (Katmai National Park and preserve)

Bear #747 fishing river during Fat Bear Week 2022

Photo of bear #747 fishing in a river during Fat Bear Week 2022. (Katmai National Park and preserve)

Information about the 12 bears in the bracket for this year’s champion can be found here. 

Voting is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. AKDT at fatbearweek.org. 

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More than 1 million votes were cast during last year’s “Fat Bear Week,” with bear 747 beating out bear 901 in a blowout race. 

In the final round of voting, 747 received 68,085 votes compared to 901’s 56,857 votes.

Fox News’ Angelica Stabile, Matteo Cina and The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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