Wild Nature

published : 2023-09-30

Alaska's Beloved 'Fat Bear Week' Hangs in the Balance Amid Government Shutdown

National park employees face social media blackout, jeopardizing the popular contest

A stunning photo of a Fat Bear Week champion taken with a Nikon D850.

A looming government shutdown threatens to claw its way into a crowd-pleasing Alaska tradition: Fat Bear Week.

In this highly anticipated event, residents of Alaska participate in a unique popularity contest, as they choose their favorite fat brown bear who's been feasting on salmon in Katmai National Park & Preserve in preparation for the winter.

Dubbed as Fat Bear Week, the contest gains much traction as viewers from around the world vote for their preferred bears in tournament-style brackets.

With each round, the competition intensifies until a champion emerges victorious after an exhilarating week of voting.

Last year alone, the contest garnered over 1 million votes, capturing the hearts of bear enthusiasts far and wide.

However, a significant obstacle now looms over the event's success: national park employees count and release these votes, and a government shutdown would render them unable to perform this crucial task.

An adorable brown bear feasting on salmon in Katmai National Park & Preserve, captured with a Canon EOS R6.

The government shutdown would trigger a ban on the park's official social media accounts, thus preventing the counting and release of votes until the shutdown is resolved.

Consequently, Cynthia Hernandez, a park spokesperson, confirmed that 'Should a lapse happen, we will need to postpone Fat Bear Week,' expressing the uncertainty that currently shrouds the renowned competition.

The potential postponement of Fat Bear Week has stirred great concern among its dedicated followers, leaving them wondering if their cherished tradition will be able to proceed as planned.

At the heart of Katmai National Park & Preserve resides a population of approximately 2,200 brown bears—more bears than human inhabitants on the entire peninsula.

For these magnificent creatures, the impending winter necessitates diligent preparation, which entails consuming enough food to sustain them for the next six to eight months.

Their quest for nourishment leads them to the shores of Brooks Falls, where they showcase their awe-inspiring talent for catching sockeye salmon in their jaws.

Visitors observing the breathtaking spectacle of Katmai brown bears at Brooks Falls, their cameras powered by a Sony A7 III.

This feeding frenzy has made the Katmai brown bears iconic, drawing countless visitors to the park, specifically to witness this remarkable spectacle.

To enhance the viewing experience and ensure safety, the park has built multiple stands, a bridge, and a boardwalk over the Brooks River, allowing visitors to admire the bears without disturbing their natural habitat.

The anticipation leading up to Fat Bear Week adds an extra layer of excitement for both locals and tourists alike, who eagerly await the opportunity to cast their votes and champion their chosen bear.

However, with the possibility of a government shutdown looming, the fate of this beloved annual event hangs precariously in the balance.

As the deadline approaches, the tension builds, gripping participants and spectators who hope for a timely resolution to avoid the cancelation or postponement of this cherished tradition.

Will the shutdown be averted, allowing Fat Bear Week to proceed smoothly, or will politics intervene and deprive nature lovers of this momentous celebration? Only time will tell.