Bear 128, also known as Grazer, has won the Fattest Bear crown in Katmai National Park’s annual online contest.
Grazer beat out a very large Chunk in the title round.
Grazer made her first appearance at Brooks Falls as a cub in 2005, and has since grown into a force that even the large male bears will attempt to avoid. Grazer has developed a reputation as a fierce mother, and will launch a preemptive attack against even large males to protect her cubs. A fan favorite on the Bear Cam, Grazer is easily identified by her very blonde, round ears. Grazer has successfully raised two litters of cubs, but this year she was an empty-nester and having to only fend for herself led to a hefty weight gain. Comparing the image from July to that in September, makes you wonder just how many salmon that bear ate.
This is the first Fat Bear Title for Grazer. A record number of votes, 1,382,783 were tallied in this year’s Fat Bear Week.
This is the first time in the title round for Bear 901. She’s a 6-1/2 yo female, who was first identified in 2018. The big question in Katmai isn’t whether 901 can knock off the wide body 747 for the crown, but whether she will emerge from the den in 2023 with her first litter of cubs.
Fertilized eggs will not implant in her uterus until she has denned up for the winter. Even then, during hibernation, it will be 901’s body that decides if she is healthy enough and chunky enough to become pregnant. Without ample body fat to get 901 through hibernation and nourish a litter of cubs, the pregnancy will not occur.
747 on the other hand, being a large male, only has to worry about getting enough fat reserves to see himself through hibernation. Being one of the largest bears on planet earth, I think 747 has hit his goals. Although, no doubt, he is still putting on the calories.
Images credit: Katmai National Park & Preserve/photographer listed; Bio info credit: Katmai NP&P
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
Prior to Fat Bear Week, researchers at Katmai National Park used Terrestrial Lidar Scanning Technology to determine the “volume” of Katmai’s voluptuous bears. #747 above, had over 27 scans of his belly alone. In the scan above, 747 was standing in shallow water.
747 was the winner of Fat Bear Week, and he topped the Lidar scanning too, coming in at 22.6 cubic feet. Chunk was the second largest bear scanned at 19.78 cubic feet. Walker came in third at 17.7 cubic feet.
Fascinating that the technology is being used on Alaska’s wildlife.