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  5. Government shutdown 2023 update: Fat Bear Week in Alaska could be canceled

Government shutdown 2023 update: Fat Bear Week in Alaska could be canceled

Katie Hawkinson   

Government shutdown 2023 update: Fat Bear Week in Alaska could be canceled
  • Fat Bear Week is a beloved celebration of Alaskan brown bears preparing for hibernation.
  • It is run by park rangers who will be sent home without pay in the event of a government shutdown.

A US government shutdown is seeming more likely by the hour.

The shutdown — the result of Congress' inability to agree on a new budget —would mean furloughs for hundreds of thousands of federal employees, causing all kinds of knock-on effects. It could mean travel delays and — depending on how long it lasts — a halt on some federal aid programs, for instance.

It would also mean the shuttering of the country's national parks as park rangers head home without pay.

And that would put a beloved past-time in jeopardy: Fat Bear Week.

The annual competition — scheduled to begin October 4 — has a single goal: to crown the fattest Alaskan brown bear preparing for hibernation this year at Katmai National Park. Rangers livestream the bears hunting in the park's Brooks River and allow viewers to vote in a tournament-style competition to determine that year's champion.

The competition isn't just for kicks, either. "For bears, fat equals survival," the National Parks Service website says. That means Fat Bear Week is a celebration of the health of these bears and their chances of surviving winter.

Months of preparation go into each Fat Bear Week. Katmai rangers have to track that year's contestants as soon as the season begins, taking pictures of each bear at its lowest weight coming out of hibernation, The Washington Post reported. Then, rangers continue monitoring and take photos of the bears at their fattest come September.

Not all hope for Fat Bear Week is lost, however.

"While I remain confident that Fat Bear Week will happen this year, I am unsure if it'll happen as currently scheduled," Mike Fitz, a former Katmai ranger who founded Fat Bear Week, told the Post.


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