The internet-famous competition is here yet again with 12 contenders vying for the title of Fat Bear Champion. Who will emerge as the heftiest, stockiest and chunkiest of the bunch? It’s up to the voters to decide.
For those who haven’t heard of Fat Bear Week, it’s an annual competition organized by the Katmai National Park and Preserve that pits its brown bears against one another in a March Madness-style bracket. Fans then vote for their favourite fat bear as the apex predators continue to binge on salmon and berries to prepare for hibernation.
According to the park, Fat Bear Week is an opportunity to “celebrate the resilience, adaptability and strength of Katmai’s brown bears.” Most of the bears are named and all of them are identified by a number which Katmai uses to monitor them.
This year, Fat Bear Week is taking place Oct. 5-11, with the winner being declared on Fat Bear Tuesday next week.
Don’t get the hype surrounding these massive mammals? Scroll through the portly participants below before making up your mind. Bring out the bears!
If the name isn’t enough, it’s clear to see what Chunk’s defining feature is. According to Katmai, Chunk is “consistently one of the largest and most dominant bears at the falls. In previous years, he weighed an estimated 1,200 lbs,” — that’s nearly 550 kg.
In its profile on Chunk, Katmai says that he is an expert fisher but — perhaps out of laziness or ingenuity — he prefers to be patient and wait for scraps and leftovers from other bears.
Grazer is a large and dominant female bear who “has been known to push other bears away when they get too close,” Katmai staff wrote. This feisty mamma bear has a couple of cubs in tow who have stuck with her for three summers now as they perfect their hunting skills.
Brown bear cubs usually stay with their mothers from two and a half years up to three and a half years, so come next Fat Bear Week, Grazer may be riding solo — meaning she may have more time to fatten herself up without worrying about other mouths to feed.
Based on these photos though, she’s doing just fine even with the kiddos tagging along.
Walker is a remarkable fisher who loves to fish at the edge of falls, which is a rarity among larger bears, Katmai reports. This portly fellow is on the younger side but you wouldn’t be able to tell — he’s one of the largest in the park.
In their profile on Walker, Katmai says that as “a young adult, 151 used to play frequently, but now he prioritizes fishing over play. His many scars demonstrate the challenges of being a large, dominant bear.”
As opposed to Walker, Bear 164 loves to fish at the base of the falls and his “innovative technique and location has given him access to the resources he needs without many confrontations.”
He’s only around six years old, making him one of the younger bears in the bunch. His adaptability at finding unique fishing spots shows how creative this tubby youngster is.
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Bear 335 is the female offspring of another Fat Bear Week contestant, the heavy-weight Holly, who is a previous Fat Bear Champion. 335 left Holly’s side this spring, meaning she is a subadult, “the teenagers of the bear world,” according to Katmai.
“In the beginning of the season, she appeared to be struggling with the separation from her mother and seemed to be quite skinny,” Katmai staff wrote, adding that 335 would often follow Holly around and that her mom needed to “reinforce the separation.” Perhaps parents who can’t seem to get their kids out of the house can relate.
“Eventually, (Holly) relented and tolerated 335 occasionally fishing nearby,” her profile reads. “She has since gained the weight critical to her survival this winter.”
Holly was the 2019 Fat Bear Champion and we can certainly see why. While you may have gotten the impression that Holly isn’t the most doting of mothers, this fan-favourite bear is actually best known for adopting a cub, Bear 503, in 2014 and raising him alongside her own offspring.
“While adoption does occur in the wild, it is rare to witness,” according to the park.
“This summer, 435 Holly returned as a single sow where she has gained substantial weight without needing to allocate resources to provide for cubs,” Katmai staff wrote. And boy, does it show.
Otis is the Fat Bear reigning champ, having taken home the ultimate prize last year. He also earned the title in 2017, 2016, and 2014 — a four-time Fat Bear Champion!
Otis is in his mid-20s and is believed to be one of the oldest bears in Katmai Park, and with age comes wisdom.
Katmai writes that Otis has a very patient fishing strategy, “employing a sit-and-wait method to conserve the energy that is so valuable when trying to gain weight for the winter.”
In 2020, 747 was crowned the Fat Bear Champion — a fitting title for a bear who’s identification number conjures up images of a passenger plane.
“Unlike many bears, 747’s size alone is enough to intimidate most bears to yield their space,” Katmai writes of this hefty hunk.
By throwing his weight around, 747 is able to gain access to the best fishing locations, meaning he has no trouble packing on the pounds for winter. “Even in early summer, he still carries the weight of his previous successes,” Katmai staff writes.
According to The Washington Post, Divot got her name because she used to dig around in the gravel around the river to hunt for rotten scraps of salmon, leaving behind little divots in the river bank.
She first appeared in Katmai in 2014 with two cubs but left shortly after. She returned to the park later with only one cub and an illegal wolf snare around her neck.
“Park rangers subsequently removed the snare but 854 still bears the resulting scar — a reminder of the impact of our presence and the challenges that bears face beyond Katmai’s boundaries,” staff wrote in her profile.
Bear 856 is one of the most dominant bears in Katmai, with his only real rival being Bear 747. He’s intimidating, aggressive, and high-up in the bear hierarchy of the park, staff report.
“Unlike many male bears, 856 has relatively few scars, a sign that his presence alone is often enough to deter physical altercations,” according to the park.
Bear 901 may be a subadult but she is a force to be reckoned with. 901 is coming off of an incredibly successful fishing season and her podgy physique is evidence of that.
Bear 901 is described as “exploratory and occasionally mischievous,” in her profile. Katmai staff have observed her investigating human structures around the park, showing off her more curious side. She is also known to charge at other bears who try to play with her, so she’s not all fun and games.
Rounding off this year’s competitors is 909’s yearling cub who is still sticking around with mom. 909’s cub won this year’s Fat Bear Junior competition, earning her a spot in this year’s race against the adults.
909’s cub is already out fishing on her own, even at the edge of the falls, which is “a great accomplishment for a bear her age,” Katmai staff write, “and a sign that she has quickly learned fishing techniques from her mother.” All that fishing practice is paying off as 909’s cub is certainly prepared well for hibernation this year.
“909’s yearling has proven her independence and maturity this season, and has the potential to become a successful subadult next year,” according to the park.
Those are all the bears in contention for Fat Bear Week 2022. Check back at this link every day this week to vote for your favourite fat bear!