NewsAlaska Election: Who Will Be Crowned Fattest Brown Bear?

Alaska Election: Who Will Be Crowned Fattest Brown Bear?

The “Fat Bear” competition in Alaska is about a good figure – and it is anything but slim: Which brown bear is the fattest? The fun competition also has a serious background.

Anchorage – Can the massive brown bear with the number 747 and the nickname “Jumbo Jet” defend his “Fat Bear” title from 2020? Or will “Holly” be the winner again this season? In 2019, the lush brown bear in Katmai National Park had already been named the most handsome fur animal.

Ten other candidates compete with the two veterans, including the chubby young animal “132 Spring Cub” and an imposing male with the telling nickname “Chunk” (in German “Klotz”).

Online voting

After a summer full of calories with fat salmon meals on the Brooks River, “Fat Bear Week” is now taking place for the seventh time in Katmai Park in southwest Alaska. Online visitors and bear fans can vote for the thickest specimens from Wednesday. The winner will be chosen next Tuesday (October 5th).

A global audience clicks through before and after photos of the candidates or watches them eat live via webcam. In the spring the bears are still thin, but by the autumn they have tightened up a lot. “During hibernation, you can lose a third of your weight,” said park ranger Naomi Boak in a telephone interview with the German press agency. “It’s great how hard you work to get really fat before next winter.”

For dozens of brown bears, the Brooks River Falls are a competitive buffet, where they catch salmon from June through October. They observed bears that eat 40 salmon in a day, and with each fish they eat a good 4,000 calories, explains Boak. This can now be seen clearly in the fur animals. “The 747 is simply gigantic,” enthuses the ranger. “Two years ago it was estimated at 635 kilograms and I think it is even heavier now.”

Estimated pounds are only one criterion, living conditions also play an important role in the selection of candidates. Otis is one of the oldest bears in the area at 25 years old. “He only has a few teeth and was very thin at the beginning of summer, but he has caught up a lot,” says the ranger. The female “Grazer” describes her as a “fearless fisherwoman” with “huge ears and an even thicker neck”.

Even the youngest participant should not be underestimated, says Boak. When she was born nine months ago, “Spring Cub” weighed just half a kilo, but has gained a remarkable 30 kilos since then.

Climate change and environmental protection

With the “Fat Bear” competition, the park wants to provide information about the ecosystem and habitat of the more than 2000 brown bears in the region – and to draw attention to the dangers for the fur giants. The consequences of climate change are a concern. In 2019, Alaska had a summer with heat records, says Boak. At that time the water in the river was so warm that the salmon stayed away for a while. “The more people are enthusiastic about our bears and understand these interrelationships, the more they will work to protect the environment,” the animal keeper hopes.

More than 640,000 votes were cast at the “Fat Bear” week last autumn, and many fans cheered on their favorites online with funny comments. Again, everything points to a hot competition. Even before the voting began, visitors to the park website were enthusiastic: “Vote for Otis, the good-looking teddy bear, old and experienced, the King of Katmai,” wrote one user on Monday evening. Others came out as “Holly” fans or campaigned for “747”.

On the online platform “” during “Fat Bear Week”, bears are presented for voting on a daily basis. After six rounds, only two of the original twelve opponents will face each other in the final. “Of course I have a favorite,” admits Ranger Boak. But she won’t give a name. The park employee jokes that it is an important choice and it must be impartial. dpa

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