Fat Bear Week 2023: Can the Fat Bear 806 Junior Challenge ..
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The essence of Fat Bear Weeklies in commemorating the multitude of stories it brings forth. Since the day of its birth, it has gained nearly 7,000 percent of its body weight, which was less than a year ago. And now, this 70lb (31kg) spring cub, known as 806 Jr, is competing against the heavyweight champions in this year’s Fat Bear Week competition.

Established in 2014 by former ranger Mike Fitz in Katmai National Park, the famous online event has become a sensation, with over a million votes cast last year for all the participants.

Alaskan Brown Bears: Preparing for Winter Feasting

Every year, brown bears from Alaska’s Katmai National Park gather along the banks of the Brooks River to fatten up for the upcoming winter. Their goal: is to pack on as many pounds as possible before the cold sets in.

Fat Bear Week: Can 806 Junior Defend His Title?

A dozen bears have been selected from the park to compete in Fat Bear Week, where avid fans who vote online will ultimately decide the winner.

806 Junior, who can be identified by his distinctive hump and almost dozen-like appearance, is already the reigning Fat Bear Junior Champion of 2023. But can he take on the more experienced former soldiers?

Top Contenders: Outz and 747 in Fat Bear Week 2023

Fat Bear Week 2023

The current favorites for the 2023 competition are Outz, a 27-year-old brown bear weighing approximately 1,200lb, and 747, also known as Colbert, a two-time Fat Bear Week champion with a similar weight.

It’s a fiercely competitive field, one that Mr. Fitz, an expert naturalist who now works for explore.org, which maintains 24/7 live streams of bears, says it is not distinguished by the bear’s species, size, or age.

Massive Viewership in 2022: Fat Bear Week Draws Millions

In 2022, nearly 10 million people tuned into Katmai live streams, including watching bears like Jacky in their prime fishing spots.

“If you’re someone like 747 (Colbert), the bears won’t pose a challenge. You have the freedom to do as you please, whenever you please,” Mr. Fitz comments.

Outz: A Beloved Veteran in Fat Bear Week

Outz, on the other hand, is a four-time champion during his prime and is a “beloved” bear with a good chance of winning. Although he’s aging and missing some teeth, he can no longer compete for important mating spots. According to Mr. Fitz, “I certainly wouldn’t underestimate him.”

During the salmon run in Katmai, brown bears consume almost a year’s worth of food in about six months to accumulate enough fat to survive the winter. Mr. Fitz says that “a good day for a bear is around 10 salmon,” but they can eat much more than that.

Bear Appetites: Insatiable Eaters

Bear Appetites

He once saw a bear consume 42 salmon in just five hours, which is approximately 189,000 calories. However, this is a small meal for hungry predators. Some bears are estimated to consume up to 6,000lb of food during the summer and fall seasons, which can lead to significant weight gain, as seen in cubs like 806 Junior, who can more than double their body weight during the spring season. Cubs usually weigh only 1lb when they are born in January and February but can exceed 70 lb by the end of fall.

Weight Gain in Young Bears and Massive Males

Mr. Fitz explains that young subadults can double their body weight during the same period, going from 200 lb to 400lb. Really big males can gain almost 200-300 lb and can reach a weight of up to 1,600lb by the end of the summer season. However, Mr. Fitz says, “Mother bears are specifically challenged to get fat.”

“When you make a comparison between the sizes and forms of mother bears and solitary males, you’ll frequently notice a distinct contrast,” Mr. Fitz elucidates.

Weight Gain Challenge: Tough for Supermom Holly

This weight gain competition is a disadvantage for bears like 435, also known as Holly, or “Supermom,” who can expend a significant amount of energy protecting their cubs and producing milk. Fans are advised to go for the “lightly toasted marshmallow color,” as the competition indicates, as Holly weighs somewhere around 800 lb at Brooks Falls in Katmai Park. However, her smaller size did not prevent her from winning Fat Bear Week in 2019. According to Mr. Fitz, size doesn’t always matter.

The Heart of Fat Bear Week: Celebrating Stories and Achievements

Mr. Fitz emphasizes, “The essence of Fat Bear Weeklies in commemorating the multitude of stories it brings forth. It’s not solely about determining a winner.” And it revolves around the achievements and efforts of these ‘plump bears,'” underscores the focus, according to Mr. Fitz.

Fat Bear Week: Vote and Watch, From Local to Global

Fans can vote every day on explore.org’s website for the competition from October 4th to October 10th, between 12:00-21:00 EST (16:00-01:00 GMT).

In 2014, the first Fat Bear Week received a few thousand votes, but it has since gone global. Its popularity has grown so much that in September, people are tuning in to live streams not to find a bear but to spot a hiker stuck, saving their lives.

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