HomeOutdoorsWATCH: Katmai National Park Brown Bears Are Already Enormous Ahead of Fat Bear Week

WATCH: Katmai National Park Brown Bears Are Already Enormous Ahead of Fat Bear Week

BROOKS FALLS ALASKA - JULY 23, 2019. A brown bear fishes for sockeye salmon at Brooks Falls in Alaska's Katmai National Park. The falls are famous for attracting brown bears that fish for sockeye salmon as they try to overcome six-foot cascades to reach spawning grounds in nearby Brooks Lake. In July, more than a dozen bears and countless photographers commonly congregate at the falls. Most visitors join tour groups that are flown in by float planes. The falls are about 100 miles from Katmai National Park brown bear (Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

For us Outsiders, Fat Bear Week might as well be the Olympics, and 2021’s contenders put in some serious gains over the summer.

“He’s a tank once again,” says Mike Fitz of last year’s King of Fat Bears, the aptly-numbered 747. Fans know him as Chunk, and Fitz, a former Katmai National Park ranger and current resident naturalist for Explore.org, is definitely a fellow fan. But thanks to his rotundness, Chunk also has another name: Crowned King of 2020’s Fat Bear Week.

Below, footage from Explore.org’s Katmai National Park Bear Cam showcases the gargantuan girth Chunk has put on over the 2021 summer. Like all his brown bear brothers and sisters, Chunk took to the park’s famous Brooks Falls to fatten up on salmon ahead of winter hibernation. This is the essence of Fat Bear Week, and none exemplifies it better than the 747-sized bear. He’s on the right:

So if you’re new to Fat Bear Week, welcome! It is the best time of the year, hands paws down, and this is no optical illusion. Katmai’s browns get absolutely ginormous this time of year.

Fitz tells Mashable that the park’s bears are looking “healthily pudgy” this week. They’re already looking formidable for 2021’s competition – and still have three weeks left to fatten up.

Explore.org is tweeting out plenty of footage to showcase the Katmai bear’s gains in the lead-up to Fat Bear Week. The giants are available to stream 24-7, however, on the company’s fantastic Brooks Falls Bear Cam. It’s a favorite of this Outsider and wildlife tech, who often has the falls streaming via YouTube on the big screen in the living room.

Like Grizzlies to Salmon, Fat Bear Week Brings the Feel-Good News Outsiders Crave

All of this serves to say: Get ready, fellow bear lovers, as Fat Bear Week begins September 29, 2021! Katmai National Park and Preserve will showcase this year’s contestants throughout the week. Throughout, wildlife enthusiasts and bear lovers alike will be able to vote online in the playoff-style tournament bracket for their favorite giants. Then, come Fat Bear Tuesday, the winner will be announced. It is, if you cannot already tell, a glorious time.

And just like last year, Chunk is bringing his A-game. He’s been feasting on 4,500-calorie-packing sockeye salmon all summer. And he is an absolute chonky beast for it. The feast comes courtesy of the salmon’s annual salmon run, in which they rush up Brooks Falls (and others like it) to spawn their next generations. Once they filter through, other salmon (like silvers) continue to run the falls and feed the bears.

Chunk has some big competition again this year, however. Mike Fitz says bear 128, a.k.a Grazer, is putting in some serious work alongside her returning cubs.

“She and her yearlings are huge,” Fitz says ahead of Fat Bear Week.

Let the games begin.