In the Alaskan bear community, there’s no such thing as fat-shaming. When you’re the fattest bear in town, you not only guaranteed a healthy hibernation, but also earn the prestige that comes with winning Fat Bear Week. For the sixth year in a row, Katmai National Park and Preserve in King Salmon, Alaska, is kicking off its tribute to its heftiest bears with this annual weeklong celebration of ursine girth. Organized in a bracket system, bears commonly seen on the park’s Bear Cam are pitted against each other for public voting, until one bear is deemed the fattest.
The tradition began back in 2014 when park rangers asked visitors to vote on which bear was the fattest. Now, the park has developed a more sophisticated voting system, presenting two bears each day to the public, who can decide which one moves on to the next round.
According to the park, this isn’t about fat-shaming, but should be viewed more as a celebration of life. “There is no shame in winning this contest,” it said, “as large amounts of body fat in brown bears is indicative of good health and strong chances of survival [over the winter].”
Between now and October 8, the park will post pictures of the various bear matchups (March Madness-style) on its Facebook page, and ask people to vote on which ones look fattest.
Last year, Beadnose took home the top prize, but unfortunately (or fortunately for the other contestants) she isn’t returning this year. She’s pretty old for a brown bear at 20 years old, and hasn’t been seen in the park this year.