Fat Bear Week 2022 is here. Meet this year's contenders

NPS Photo/L. Law

Fat Bear Week is back!

The annual competition hosted by Alaska's Katmai National Park has announced this year's contenders as it kicked off the event, meant to celebrate the brown bears as they pack on the pounds before winter hibernation.

The competition works by using a bracket format that pairs the bears against each other, giving online voters the opportunity to choose the Fat Bear Week 2022 winner over the course of several rounds.

"Fat Bear Week is a celebration of success and survival," Katmai National Park wrote on its website. "It is a way to celebrate the resilience, adaptability and strength of Katmai's brown bears."

Online voting will be open from October 5 - 11 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. AKDT.

"Over the course of the week, virtual visitors learn more about the lives and histories of individual bears while also gaining a greater understanding of Katmai's ecosystem," the park said.

The competition, which began in 2014, saw nearly 800,000 votes cast in 2021. It has continued to be a way for the park to celebrate its "healthy ecosystem."

According to the park, the bears' survival depends on eating a year's worth of food in six months.

Former Katmai National Park ranger Andrew LaValle told CBS News in 2018 that "a fat bear is a healthy bear, and it's something to celebrate."

Check out the full bracket featuring all 12 bears below:

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