Autumn has arrived. For some, the season’s coming may conjure up pleasant thoughts of Halloween and Thanksgiving, walks through colorful forest trails, and wool sweaters. For others, there is no time to think about anything else but the biggest, best event of the year: Fat Bear Week.
For anyone unfortunate enough not to be familiar with Fat Bear Week already, it’s an annual celebration of the bears of Alaska’s Katmai National Park that takes place just before they waddle their way toward a long winter’s rest. Because the bears have spent the past several months mowing down as much food as they can get their paws on, some of them are absolute titans—and one of them must be crowned the Fat Bear of the year.
The contestants are selected by Explore.org (which also livestreams a sometimes literal feed of the bears eating salmon at Katmai’s Brooks Falls) but the winner is voted on by the public. Returning champs Holly (Bear 435), Bear 747, and last year’s winner, Otis (Bear 480) have lumbered back in for another shot at the title and are joined by other familiar, fish gut-stained faces, some of which have been competing since we first covered the event back in 2019.
Speaking to Mashable, Explore.org resident naturalist Mike Fitz said that the tournament “is pretty wide open” this year, with any of the bears ready to waddle on into the title. “This is going to be one of the more exciting competitions,” he added.
Looking at a video that showcases the competitors, we can understand why. Not only are there veteran salmon chompers built like furry tanks among the group, but also young upstarts like Bear 164 who has made a name for himself by, as Explore’s “Meet The Bears” page puts it, inventing new fishing spots that give him prime access to salmon.
Still, despite “innovators” like 164, we’re putting all our chips on Otis winning big again this year, given the fact that Explore.org notes that he “once ate 42 salmon in a sitting” back in 2016. Honestly, just look at this guy go. That’s an athlete.
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