Have you heard of Fat Bear Week? The 2022 competition closed this past Tuesday, with bear 747 (“Bear Force One”) winning for the second time. Katmai National Park in Alaska hosts this online annual competition where they select twelve of the over 2,200 bears in the park to be voted on in a single-elimination bracket. Voters are urged to consider not just the overall size of the bear, but its personality and obstacles it overcame on its path to beefing up for a six months of hibernation this winter.
Katmai National Park uses Fat Bear Week to “celebrate the resilience, adaptability and strength” of the park’s brown bears. Over the course of the week, visitors to the site learn more about individual bears and a better understanding of Katmai’s ecosystem through live events.
Katmai is one of the world’s most active volcanic areas with at least 14 active volcanoes within the park as it is along the northern boundary of the Pacific Ring of Fire. The 1912 volcanic eruption is one of the five largest eruptions in recorded history and buried Katmai Village in ash, which was later completely destroyed in a 1916 flood. Decades later in 1965 and 1966, NASA sent Apollo astronauts to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes for geology training as it was believed to be a good representation of the moon’s landscape.
Katmai was originally established as a National Monument in 1918 via a Presidential proclamation to preserve the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and the surrounding landscape affected by the volcanic eruption of 1912. It continued to be expanded over the years and became a National Park and Preserve via the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) in 1980. The Act states that the land is to be managed to protect habitats of many species of wildlife, including brown and grizzly bears and salmon, along with protecting scenic, geological, cultural, and recreational features. The park is so remote that visitors can only arrive via plane or boat. Popular activities include hiking and viewing wildlife, including brown bears.
Written by Sarah Woodams ‘24(T5)