They were going pound for pound, gut for gut. Ahead of the final round, both animals enjoyed fervent support online. But in the end, 480 Otis was crowned the winner of the Fat Bear Week tournament – a competition all the more unique as none of its participants have the slightest idea of its existence.
Fat Bear Week is hosted in Alaska by Katmai National Park and Preserve, explore.org and Katmai Conservancy to showcase the park’s natural beauty and share the story of its large population of brown bears.
The bears’ annual hibernation cycle causes them to gain weight during the summer, which they do by feasting on salmon in the park’s Brooks River. Their hunger is driven by months of starvation, as well as the urge to prepare for another winter.
480 Otis won his fourth Fat Bear title by beating 151 Walker, a younger bear who is impressively tall but doesn’t have the story of returning to the miracles of 480 Otis. The oldest bear, said to be around 25, came out of hibernation a little late this year, looking very thin and facing health issues.
“In particular, he is missing two canines and a lot of his other teeth are badly worn,” Explores.org explains in the bear bio. “Otis also has to compete with younger, larger bears who want to access his fishing grounds. Otis is more likely to be moved by these bears than to move them.”
Along with his extraordinary ability to fill his frame, 480 Otis fans say they just prefer the champion’s softer personality, citing the patience he shows with other bears. Then there are the fishing skills and his unwillingness to waste energy hunting salmon.
480 Otis is admired for his perseverance and fishing skills
A commentator on the Fat Bear website sums up the bear’s appeal: “His persistence, his will to live (he had so much difficulty walking at first; his hind legs had problems) and his skills as a angler – as well as his inter-bear communications – well, they just spoke to me. ”
Of the roughly 96,000 votes cast in the deciding final round, 480 Otis garnered more than 51,000, compared to less than 45,000 for 151 Walker.
480 Otis fans admit he’s no spring chicken. But as he’s proven once again, he’s indeed a full-fledged fall bear – one that’s busy getting ready for yet another winter hibernation.
The bear does not rest on its impressive laurels. Like a true champion, the “corpulent patriarch of paunch” is “always at work to swallow”, the Katmai National Park noted.
If you are into bear watching, you can watch a live video streamed from Brooks Falls, one of their favorite fishing spots. There are also other nature cameras showing views of the park and the animals that live there.