To the dismay of Fat Bear Week enthusiasts across the country and around the world, the National Park Service will not host the event during the impending government shutdown.
Fat Bear Week is scheduled for Oct. 4-10, overlapping with what could be the first week of the shutdown. A senior Interior Department official told reporters on Thursday the department will not be able to report on the bears’ progress as its websites will be unavailable. (“The bears will continue to get fat,” the official noted.)
Officials said they will reevaluate Fat Bear Week plans depending on how long a shutdown drags on.
Fat Bear Week was started in 2014 and has became a staple for fans of Katmai National Park and Preserve’s corpulent bruins. Using live bear cams, viewers can watch the chunky carnivores chow down on sockeye salmon at Brooks Falls. During the event, people vote on their favorite bears in a tournament-style bracket.
Over the years, Katmai’s behemoth bears have become global celebrities. Last year, a million people voted for their favorite — granting a bear called 747 the lofty title of fattest bear. Fat Bear Week is intended to celebrate Katmai’s ecosystem and the bears’ insatiable appetite for salmon as they pack on pounds before they hibernate for the winter.
The National Park Service was still promoting Fat Bear Week with a pun-laden social media post on Thursday afternoon.
The Fat Bear Junior competition started Thursday. During the junior competition, cubs in a smaller bracket compete for votes to enter the larger Fat Bear Week bracket.
Fat Bear Week is just one of the casualties facing national parks during the coming shutdown. The majority of parks will be closed to public access, and those physically accessible to the public will face significantly reduced visitor services, according to the Interior Department.