… in downtown Juneau.
At least they took it outside.
A little bit of controversy this year for Fat Bear Week. Otis beat out Walker for the fattest bear of Brooks Falls. This may have been a bit of a popularity contest in 2021, with Team Otis coming out in droves to vote for the fan favorite. With that said, it is hard to dismiss the amount of weight that Otis put on in just a few short months. It was a lot of poundage, especially considering that Otis showed up at the river later than usual this summer, and that he is now missing two canine teeth, and many of his teeth are worn down.
Congrats to the now 4-Time Champ, and best wishes in the off season.
Fat Bear Week Title Match:
Otis is no newcomer to Fat Bear Week. A three time winner of the championship, Otis was the inaugural winner back in 2014. He also took the title in 2016 & 2017. First identified at Brooks Falls in 2001, he is one of the older bears in Katmai. A patient fisher, Otis rarely chases salmon, and has one of the higher catch rates at Brooks Falls. One of Katmai’s all-time fan favorites, the aging bruin once again appears in the finals.
Walker first showed up at Brooks Falls in 2009 as a two year old. Once known as a tolerant, playful bear, Walker has become a lot less tolerant as he has aged. As he has grown into a larger, dominate male, Walker has realized he can throw his weight around to gain prime fishing spots. Estimated to have weighed in at 1000 pounds last autumn, Walker looks to be even bigger in 2021.
Voting for the title round takes place today. Polls close at 5pm ADT.
Images and descriptions courtesy of Katmai National Park and explore.org
We have some big names going belly to belly right out of the gate for Fat Bear Week. Holly & Grazer face off, and Popeye takes on Walker on Day One. Day Two has 402, and perennial fan favorite Otis going up against each other.
Bear 503, 747 “Wide Body”, Chunk and 132 all get first round byes.
Voting can be done at:
Bear 132 is a spring cub. 132 is one of two surviving cubs from a litter of three. It put on a lot of weight, and a lot of hair. In the September photo, 132 weighs an estimated sixty pounds.
Bear 128 is a yearling, and the daughter of fan favorite Grazer. Grazer is a bold salmon catcher, and 128 is following that lead. By the end of this summer, 128 was catching her own leaping salmon. Park staff have not seen a yearling regularly catch salmon from the lip of Brooks Falls. A future Fat Bear Champion in the making?
Photo credit: Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park and Explore.org have added Fat Bear Junior to the madness of Fat Bear Week. Head over to the official site to vote for your favorite chubby cubby. The link is below:
Another Alaska tale that captured some global interest recently, was the man who was rescued outside of Nome by a United States Coast Guard helicopter. Reports came into Alaska first, that a bear had attacked a man on a four wheeler, the man escaped to a mining shack, only to be harassed for days by the rogue bruin. I was an immediate skeptic, but quickly moved on from the story, as I had closer things to worry about.
Now, the Nome Nugget has called out the bear tale. Enough contrary evidence has surfaced to call the ordeal into question. Since Alaskans rarely need much of an excuse to take a ride out onto the tundra, several Nome residents ventured out to the mine claim in question. The door handle on the mining shack looked to have been knocked off by a hammer, and the four wheeler looked to be in great shape, but there are obvious scratches on the trailer that were “either made by a screwdriver, or a bear with one claw.” Also, there was no bear sign to be found around the cabin. “There’s no hair, no tracks, no scat, nothing.”
The most damming evidence found was the untouched two pounds of bacon in a cooler sitting on the four wheeler. For his part, the man who claimed to be stalked by the bear has not changed his story: “They can believe what they want,” the man told the Nugget. “I was there. I know what happened. I haven’t been that scared in a very, very long time.”
Even though the area is certainly known for its bears, Sourdough Miners in the area believe that the “victim” accidentally crashed his four wheeler, and was too embarrassed to admit it. At any rate, both Sourdough and Coast Guard officials believe the man truly needed rescuing, regardless of the actual circumstances. Another example of the Coast Guard’s vital role in Alaska.
The news that the chum fishing season had closed on the Yukon brought me a question from the balcony. “What’s a chum?”
Chum Salmon, also known as the Dog Salmon. The least commercially sought after of our Pacific Salmon. Alaska chum mature at 5 years. An adult chum can weigh between 9 – 22 pounds, with an average length of 24″. The record chum salmon weighed in at 42 pounds.
Pink Salmon, also known as Humpies. One look at a pink in its spawning phase will make it clear how the other name stuck. The back of a pink will grow a large hump, making them the Quasimodo of the salmon world. Humpies are the smallest of our five species, averaging just under 5 pounds as an adult. A usual year sees a harvest of 107 million pounds of pinks in Alaska waters. The record pink weighed 15 pounds. I admit to being a salmon snob, and refuse to keep pinks. Visitors can keep them, but my rule is that they have to take the humpy with them when they leave. Luckily, I can be a bit selective on what goes into my freezer.
Coho Salmon, also known as Silvers. The coho is probably known more as a game fish than a prize for the commercial fisheries. They amount to only 3.5% of the Alaska catch my numbers, just under 6% by weight. They are fun to catch though, and make up the majority of my cache in most years. On average, the returning salmon weigh 7-11 pounds, with some reaching up to 36 pounds, but that is a big silver. The spawning coho will develop a large kype, or hooked beak.
Sockeye Salmon, or Reds. The salmon that makes Alaska, the sockeye has a lifespan of 3-7 years, and can weigh 6-16 pounds as an adult. Bristol Bay alone, which is home to the largest (and last) great sockeye fishery, brings in an annual catch of some 30 million sockeye salmon. Statewide, sockeyes are the third most abundant species of salmon.
Saving the biggest for last: The Chinook or King Salmon. An adult king averages 30 pounds and 36″ in length, with the Alaska record being 126 pounds and 58″ in length. The Chinook is the official state fish, and the one everyone wants to catch. Images of the massive Chinook caught out of the Kenai River are all over the internet. Unfortunately, this is the species of Pacific Salmon that seems to have taken the biggest hit, population wise. It is a rare year when a King can be kept from the Yukon River these days, and even the Kenai Peninsula is seeing seasons shortened, if not called off altogether.
People talk of keystone species, and the salmon is the keystone for an entire state. The amount of biomass that enters the ecosystem every year with the death of the spawning salmon is simply staggering. Commercial fisheries, subsistence users, sport fishing, lodges, guides, all rely on the salmon.
The Tongass is known as America’s Salmon Forest, with roughly 17,000 miles of salmon streams and rivers. The nutrients that enter the forest every year from the salmon, drive the forest. Every year, salmon offer a smorgasbord to bears, wolves, eagles and the like, throughout the state.
Nothing is more important to Alaska than its salmon.
As the bears of Katmai return to the river, so does the Bear Cam at Brooks Falls. The cam went online Monday, so feel free to head over to Explore.org to see how Otis, Holly and 747 fared over the winter.
Link is below: