Elderly Brown Bear Takes Home ‘Fattest Bear’ Title

Katmai National Park resident 480 Otis beat out younger bears to become the champion of chonk.

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Bear, Wildlife, Mammal
Image via Screenshot, Explore.org

All other chonky bears, bow down: The “comeback kid,” 480 Otis, vanquished the odds to win the title of 2021’s “Fat Bear” for the fourth time.

The “contest” is actually just a celebration of the wildlife, namely brown bears, that live in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. It’s a decidedly unscientific affair in which “fattest bear” is not selected by having each bear step daintily onto a scale, but instead by popularity. Katmai National Park noted in its winner announcement that Otis was the people’s choice:

Small wonder (well, not “small,” but you know what we mean) that Otis defied the odds to make it into the running in the first place. He’s 25 years old, which is elderly for a brown bear. As a senior citizen, Otis is missing some teeth, and many of his teeth are worn down. He also has to compete with younger, larger bears for fishing spots.

But despite these challenges, Otis is a master fisher, according to his biography on Explore.org, a website run by a non-profit nature cam and documentary organization:

Still, he recognizes that patience is a successful strategy. Otis rarely makes an effort to chase salmon like younger, more energetic bears. Once access to his preferred fishing spot becomes available, he takes advantage of the opportunity while expending little energy. While Otis occasionally appears to be napping or not paying attention, most of the time he’s focused on the water, and he experiences a relatively high salmon catch rate as a result.

Otis turned up at Brooks River in the nature preserve “later than usual in 2021” but made up for the lost time, chunking up for the bears’ seasonal hibernation by catching and gobbling up loads of salmon, according to Explore.org. He’s the return champ, winning “Fat Bear” in 2016 and 2017, and was the fat bear competition’s inaugural champ in 2014.


Sources:

Chappell, Bill. “Fat Bear Week Has a Champion: All Hail 480 Otis.” NPR, 6 Oct. 2021. NPR, https://www.npr.org/2021/10/06/1043647458/fat-bear-week-champion-480-otis.

Meet the Bears of Fat Bear Week. https://explore.org. Accessed 8 Oct. 2021.