Otis returned to Brooks Falls in Katmai on Wednesday. It was the first time he had been seen since last autumn. Otis, the Bear Cam favorite, is believed to be 27 years old. A winner of 4 Fat Bear titles, Otis last won two seasons ago.
Otis is arguably the most skilled fisher-bear in Katmai. His technique is effortless, and he wastes no energy as the old bruin fattens up for another hibernation.
Welcome back Otis. Your fan club has been waiting for you.
The Competition gets serious:Chunk vs The Wide Body
Bear #32 was first identified at Brooks Falls in 2007, when he appeared as a “chunky” 2-1/2 yo bear. Thus, his nickname. Even when Chunk is at his leanest, he is carrying a vast supply of fat reserves. His size allows him to command the prime salmon spots, and he has the scars to show that he isn’t afraid to mix it up to take over those fishing holes. But Chunk is a complicated bruin, and he is also known to patiently wait “his turn” to fish, and is often seen playing with other bears. Both are rare activities for dominant brown bears.
2020 Champ, 747, takes on Chunk in this round’s battle of the titans. Today’s winner might very well go on to the title.
Image credits and biography info go to Katmai National Park
Bear #164 is a 5yo adult male. First identified in 2019, 164 does not compete for fishing spots, but instead created his own. He fishes the base of Brooks Falls on the edge of the deepest pool. No current bear fishes the spot, and none have in recent memory.
Bear #335 is a subadult female, and the daughter of previous champion Holly. This summer was her first as an independent bear. 335 is the youngest bear in the bracket, having won the Junior Bear Title. As a smaller bear, she also didn’t fight for prime fishing holes, but instead harvested spawned out salmon down river.
Round 1: The Rivals
Bear #747 – Wide Body, is one of my favorite bears at Brooks Falls. 747 is also one of the largest brown bears on the planet, tipping in at roughly 1400 pounds this time of year. When he was first spotted at Brooks Falls in 2004, 747 was unable to compete for fishing spots with larger bears. How times have changed as bears move out of his way these days when he approaches. #747 was the 2020 Fat Bear Champion.
For years, Bear 747 gave way to only one bear: #856. That changed in 2021, when 747 displaced 856 in the large bear hierarchy. Between 2011 and 2020, 856 was the top bruin on the falls. His aggressive disposition and willingness to take on any challenger led to many fights, all of which were victories. This summer, 856 refused to give up his title easily, and frequently challenged 747 for the best fishing spots.
Photos come courtesy of Katmai National Park & Preserve; photographers listed below photos
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.
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.
The winner of Katmai’s Fat Bear Week, is Bear #747. The bear that shares a number with a wide-body jet airplane, is the champion of 2020.
747 first appeared on the Brooks River scene in 2004. At that time, the young, male bruin could not maintain prime fishing spots against the other bears. That is no longer the case.
747 is now one of the most dominate bears at Brooks Falls, and he is a talented catcher of salmon. He is not the most aggressive of the bears, but 747 does not have to be. Most bears get out of his way just because of his size. In 2019, 747 was estimated to weigh 1400 pounds. He has attained that weight, if not more, in 2020.
In full disclosure: 747 was my personal favorite for this year’s Fat Bear Week. No attempt was made to influence voters.
There will not be a repeat winner this year in Katmai. Last year’s champ, Holly, lost to eventual finalist Chunk.
Voting starts at 8am ADT on Tuesday for the title. “Wide Body” 747 takes on “Chunk”, Bear #32.
The amount of weight these brown bears put on over the course of the summer is really astounding. The bears enter a state of hyperphagia, which suppresses leptin, which is the chemical in the bears’ body that tells the animal that it is full.
Bears often eat dozens of sockeye salmon at a time, although one especially motivated bear was documented eating 40 salmon in one sitting! Each salmon brings in around 4000 calories.
A bear fishing Brooks River in Katmai can easily gain four pounds a day eating salmon, sedge grasses and berries. As salmon numbers tail off in September, the bears will start to move away from the river and dine elsewhere. Although, stragglers will remain around the Brooks River & Brooks Falls through the month of October.