Social media and web manager Maddie Walters describes Alaska’s greatest contribution to the world of sports and its greatest “athlete.”
This past week saw the thrilling conclusion to the annual Fat Bear Week. Beginning in 2014, this week-long tournament celebrates brown bears at the Katmai National Park in Alaska as they prepare for winter hibernation. Large bears are important because, while a bear hibernates, it does not eat or drink, resulting in the bear losing up to one third of its body weight. Taking home the title of Fat Bear Week 2021 Champion is Otis.
Hosted by Explore.org, the tournament starts out with 12 bears, who are pitted against one another in a challenge to see who can receive the most online votes. Fat Bear Week is a subjective competition, meaning that there is no defining characteristic from winner to winner; the choice is entirely up to voters. That being said, there are certain trends among previous winners. For example, sometimes the winner, like this year, is simply the largest bear on the bracket. Other times, the winner has extenuating circumstances that make it stand out from the other brown bears, like a mother bear who must care for both herself and her cubs.
Bears competing this year include Otis, Grazer, Holly, Walker, Popeye, Chunk, 131, 132’s Spring Cub, 402, 503, 812 and 747. The bears with a numerical name are either subadults or cubs, and will receive their name once they become a fully grown bear. Right from the start, two bears stood out from the others—Otis and Walker. In their respective first rounds, the former received 71,227 votes, while the latter received 60,621 votes, leaving every other bear in their dust; the next closest bear, Grazer, received 30,000 less votes than Walker.
It was no surprise to see the two pitted against one another in the finals taking place on Oct. 5, or more commonly known as “Fat Bear Tuesday.” Ultimately, Otis prevailed over Walker. This isn’t Otis’ first win either; he also took home the title in 2016 and 2017. The final tally saw Otis receive 51,230 votes to Walker’s 44,834 votes.
Otis is between the age of 24-26 years old, which makes his victory even more impressive due to the fact that it is more likely that younger bears would usurp his fishing spot than for him to retain it. In his online bio, it says that his hobbies include sleeping and generally not paying attention to those around him.
Fat Bear Week is also important for the Katmai Conservancy. Since its start, the champion of the tournament receives his or her own merchandise line with the proceeds going directly to the National Park. Though it is the fourth largest national park in Canada, it receives very little funding. In addition to spreading awareness of the brown bears of Katmai, the tournament also brings in crucial funding to the national park.
Set your calendar for next year’s event to see if Otis defends his title as champion of Fat Bear Week.