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.
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.
The bracket for Fat Bear Week has dropped. Voting starts tomorrow, September 30. Four bruins have earned a first round bye: Fan favorite Otis; “Wide-Body” 747; last year’s champion, Holly; and Grazer,Bear #128.
This year, Katmai National Park has a new, secure, tamper-proof, website for voting. Each day, voting will end at 6pm ADT.
To vote for the fattest bear on the Brooks River, head over to this site:
Brown bears and grizzly are classified as the same species, with the grizzly considered a subspecies of the brown bear. Brown bears are found along Alaska’s southern coastline, and are larger and live in higher densities than their inland grizzly counterparts. The main advantage to coastal living, is the abundance of salmon as a food source. The thicker vegetation and warmer climate of the southern coast also helps to give the brown bear the size edge.
The Kodiak brown bear is considered a unique subspecies from the brown & grizzly bear. The Kodiaks have been isolated from mainland bears since the last ice age, or 12,000 years ago.
Brown bear cubs are born in January & February, usually as twins, but a litter of 1-4 cubs will occur. Cubs usually emerge from the den in June. Cubs have a survival rate of less than 50%, even with ferociously protective mothers. Cubs will stay with their mother for 2-3 years. The oldest known brown bear female was 39 years old, with the oldest known male at 38. They can reach a weight of up to 1500 pounds.
Bears have an excellent sense of smell, and their eyesight & hearing is similar to humans. They are excellent swimmers, and can run in bursts at 40 mph.
Currently, the Alaska brown bear population is around 32,000. Which is 98% of the population in the United States, and 70% of the total North American population.
Kodiak Island has approximately 3500 bears, which makes for .7 bears per square mile.
By contrast, Alaska has approximately 100,000 black bears living in the state.
Since we’re in the middle of Katmai Week here between The Circles, I wanted to share this photo, although probably not for the reasons many would think.
The pic above was taken of two fishermen in Katmai National Park. I’ve found myself in a similar situation while fishing Alaska’s rivers. Once was with my Dad, which was more nerve-wracking than when I was solo! Forget the bear, I was worried about how my Dad would react.
What I love about this picture, from all my time in Alaska, is that the bear actually has little to no interest in the fishermen. The bear simply has salmon on its mind. We don’t have two fishermen in the picture, but three.
If given half the chance, man can live with wildlife. The two species above, can coexist. Katmai NP&P is a prime example of that. I would hope that is the lesson the photograph has to give. After all, Alaska would be a much poorer place without her bears.
The photo was taken in July by Robert Hawthorne, a photographer out of Bozeman, Montana. His link is below: