Every year some of the largest brown bears on Earth make their home at Brooks River in Katmai National Park, Alaska. Fat Bear Week is an annual tournament celebrating their success in preparation for winter hibernation.
Fat Bear Week is a single elimination tournament. From September 29th to October 5th, your vote decides who is the fattest of the fat. For each set of two bears, vote for the bear who you think is the fattest. The bear with the most votes advances. Only one will be crowned champion of Fat Bear Week.
This year, the people have spoken, and crowned 480 Otis your 2021 Fat Bear Week Champion. Check out the incredible progress picture below. Otis is looking good for this winter’s hibernation!
And we’d also be remiss if we didn’t give a hefty congratulations to this year’s runner-up, 151 Walker, who tallied 44,384 votes to Otis’ 51,230. Walker, we think you’re going to have some delicious dreams this winter.
Why are fat bears important?
Each winter, curled snug in their dens, brown bears endure a months-long famine. During hibernation, bears will not eat or drink and can lose one-third of their body weight. Their winter survival depends on accumulating ample fat reserves before entering the den. Katmai’s brown bears are at their fattest in late summer and early fall after a summer spent trying to satisfy their profound hunger.
Bears gorge on the richest, most easily obtainable foods they can find. In Katmai National Park, that most often means salmon. Dozens of bears gather at Brooks River to feast on salmon from late June until mid October. Perhaps no other river on Earth offers bears the chance to feed on salmon for so long.
Each bear faces its own challenges in order to gain the body mass necessary to survive. Adult males need to grow large to dominate the best fishing spots and secure mating opportunities. Female bears need to gain weight for their own survival as well as to support the birth and growth of cubs. Bear cubs experience the same hunger as older bears but also undergo tremendous growth spurts. Juvenile bears living on their own for the first time must navigate a gauntlet of hazards to establish a home range and find food without mother’s guidance. [source]