The process is similar to a March Madness-style bracket, only way cuter.

By Alison Fox
September 29, 2020
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Hibernation season is approaching and that can only mean one thing: it’s time to vote on America’s best fattest bear.

Voting opens tomorrow for the Katmai National Park and Preserve's annual Fattest Bear contest as part of Fat Bear Week, according to the National Parks Service. The process is similar to a March Madness-style bracket, only way cuter, asking people to vote on which brown bear is winter-ready,

The competition is open from Sept. 30 through Oct. 6 and people can cast their votes online from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. EST.

“During hibernation, bears will not eat or drink and they will lose one-third of their body weight. Their winter survival depends on accumulating ample fat reserves before entering the den,” Explore.org, which is hosting the vote, wrote on their website. “Katmai’s brown bears are at their fattest in late summer and early fall after a summer spent trying to satisfy their profound hunger… Fat bears exemplify the richness of Katmai National Park and Bristol Bay, Alaska, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.”

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Voters can pick their favorites among the adorable contestants, including 32 Chunk, a large adult male who was first identified in 2007; or 151 Walker, another large adult male who is estimated to weigh nearly 1,200 pounds and is one of the river’s largest bears.

The leading champ is 435 Holly, a medium-large adult female who “somewhat resembles the shape and color of a toasted marshmallow.” And this year, Holly's cub has entered the competition, born in late January or early February and known for her playful attitude and curious demeanor (she encountered a porcupine in early September and is still dealing with the effects of that meeting).

Beyond voting, fans can watch a live stream of the Brooks Falls Brown Bears fishing and generally being their best chubby selves.

Alison Fox is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure. When she’s not in New York City, she likes to spend her time at the beach or exploring new destinations and hopes to visit every country in the world. Follow her adventures on Instagram.