Fat Bear Week is here, learn how to participate and get some other wildlife viewing in too

Oct 2, 2023, 3:00 PM

a big bear...

480 Otis is a four-time winner of Fat Bear Week. (C.Spencer/NPS)


SALT LAKE CITY — Fat Bear Week kicked off Monday, inviting people to get a look at Katmai National Park and Preserve’s bears to see who’d be this year’s champion. The event offers a chance to view wildlife from home, but Utah has an opportunity for in-person viewing — albeit not for bears.

Wildlife viewing has always ranked among the top outdoor activities because it’s so easy to participate.

Although a good pair of binoculars enhances the experience, they aren’t required to have a productive and enjoyable day outdoors.

It’s also among the least expensive ways to recreate with all ages of the family involved. That’s particularly true here in Utah, with our biggest population areas so close to nature.

One such opportunity is happening this weekend with sandhill crane viewing events in Utah.

See sandhill cranes

It turns out that fall is a great time to see sandhill cranes here in Utah and this weekend the weather should be perfect for two different Utah Division of Wildlife Resources events.

In a news release about the event, NE Region Outreach Manager Tonya Kieffer-Selby said hearing the birds is as memorable as seeing them, “they have loud voices that can be heard up to 2.5 miles away.”

It’s all a part of the unique courtship rituals that will help the birds choose a mate.

You can see these unique birds and learn more about them on Saturday during two different viewing events. Binoculars and spotting scopes will be provided but you will need to drive yourself to the locations and meet at:

  • 7 a.m.-9 a.m. at Jensen Nature Park, located at 8775 East 6000 South
  • 5 p.m.-7 p.m. at the commuter parking lot at the intersection of Hwy 40 and State Route 88, which is the turnoff to the Ouray National Wildlife Refuge

The DWR encouraged participants to dress for the weather, bring drinks and snacks and of course bring a good camera with a telephoto lens. The DWR also encouraged participants to register in advance online.

Fat Bear Week

For those wanting to do a bit of wildlife viewing with some interactive fun right from home, it’s Fat Bear Week.

What started as “Fat Bear Tuesday” in 2014 has now grown to an entire week of viewing and voting for the bears that call the Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska home.

Survival depends on eating a year’s worth of food in just six months between June through October. 

Female grizzly bears gain, on average 15.3% body fat while the male grizzly gain nearly 17%. Fat stores that will sustain them through hibernation.

Sockeye Salmon are the food of choice at Katmai so watching these giants “fish” can be quite entertaining.

What started as a one-day event nearly a decade ago has become a full-blown online viewing phenomenon with events all week long and over 1 million votes cast for the fattest bear last year alone.

How it works

Rangers create a tournament-style bracket pitting individual bears against each other. The public then votes to see who will advance each round.

Voting takes place over several days online. People can vote using any criteria they see fit.

In the end, one bear will reign supreme.

Four-time champion “480 Otis” and defending champion “747” are clear favorites again this year.

Voting starts Wednesday and continues through Oct. 10.

The official site for Fat Bear Week offered a timeline of the week’s events

Oct. 2: Fat Bear Week bracket reveal live at 5 p.m. local time
Oct. 3: Premiere of Fat Bear Week in the Classroom video series on explore.org
Oct. 4: Live Chat at 5 p.m. local time – Welcome to Fat Bear Week
Oct. 4 – 10 Fat Bear Week voting open
Oct. 10: Live Chat at 5 p.m. local time – Fat Bear Tuesday and the end of Fat Bear Week

There are interactive also ways to bring Fat Bear Week into the classroom for teachers. Check out some of these extension activities from Katmai as well as the explore.org curriculum.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.


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Fat Bear Week is here, learn how to participate and get some other wildlife viewing in too