This piece is the first installment of a new tradition for the news section, reporting “Good News” to make you smile.
Katmai National Park’s 2020 annual Fat Bear Week contest crowned the fattest fan-favorite bear, “747,” on Tuesday, Oct. 6, after keeping a small group of active fans entertained on Twitter for nearly a month.
The 7th annual Fat Bear Week saw two finalists, 32 Chunk and 747 battle for the gold. 747, despite being a fan favorite the past few years, still has not been given a typical name and instead, assumedly, represents a jumbo jet in honor of his large size. However, many other bears have also been named with numbers, some representing weight and some for tagging or population purposes.
Katmai National Park in Bristol Bay, Alaska, is home to “more brown bears than people.” It’s hefty population gathers around Brooks River to feast on, “the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet,” each contributing about 4,500-calories to the growing bears. These salmons are essential to preparing the fat bears for “slowing down,” as the bears do not truly hibernate, from October to November. As their contest began Sept. 30, fans had the perfect opportunity to see the bears at their most stout for voting.
“Each winter, curled snug in their dens, brown bears endure a months-long famine. During hibernation, bears will not eat or drink and they will lose one-third of their body weight. Their winter survival depends on accumulating ample fat reserves before entering the den. Katmai’s brown bears are at their fattest in late summer and early fall after a summer spent trying to satisfy their profound hunger.” – Katmai National Park
The voting advanced bears from 11 single-elimination rounds, the outcomes of which were determined by fans using an online poll. To vote, fans simply visited the link where four pictures — two for each bear — showed before and after shots of the bears’ weight gains. It was up to the fans to determine which bear deserved the win, whether it be due to the largest change in size, which bear seemed physically larger in the after photo, or which was simply the cutest, since Katmai cannot physically weigh the bears.
As Katmai’s contest crowns a winner every year, some returning champions were allowed to advance to the second round to challenge the first round of winners. Some of these fluffy competitors included 435 Holly, the 2019 Fat Bear Week champion, ‘14, ‘16, and ‘17 champion 480 Otis, 128 Grazer, and ‘17, ’18 second-place winner 747.
Here is a timeline of past Fat Bear Week winners:
2014: 480 Otis beat 410.
2015: 409 Beadnose defeated 480 Otis.
2016: 480 Otis defeated 435 Holly.
2017: 480 Otis beat 747.
2018: 409 Beadnose beat 747.
2019: 435 Holly beat 775 Lefty
‘15 and ‘18 time champion 409 Beadnose was not included in this year’s competition despite regularly placing into the semifinals. Sadly, 409 Beadnose has not been spotted since 2018.
Although 409 Beadnose beat 747 in 2018, 747 beat Chunk that year in the race for second place, in a precursor to this year’s finalists.
The first rounds eliminated a few fan favorites, including the rare non-adult, the offspring of 2019 champ 435 Holly. While the many Twitter commenters voiced their approval for the bear’s fluffiness and sheer adorability, they concluded Fat Bear Week is a cut-throat competition, and the larger bear won.
The second rounds eliminated 435 Holly, last year’s hefty champ, who lost to 32 Chunk in a surprising turn of events. Fan favorite and three-time champion 480 Otis also surprisingly lost, this time to 151 Walker, a previous Fat Bear Week competitor, who, last year, lost within the first round.
The third rounds saw 747 beat 151 Walker with 31,618 votes and 32 Chunk beat 128 Grazer, a mother with two cubs, by 28,814 votes. 128 Grazer lost to Holly last year in the third round as well.
Fat Bear Week started as a way to promote conservation efforts for brown bears like those in Katmai and publicize media “connecting bears to their survival adaptations,” according to former KNP&P ranger and Resident Naturalist with Explore.org. “It doesn’t really matter who wins, because more people now recognize the efforts bears go through to gain weight to survive the winter,” he said. Still, some disapprove of the contest for either glorifying drastic weight gain, which can be unhealthy, or for being vulgar towards the rather majestic bears.
Still, Katmai National Park’s contest is extremely popular, likely because of its presence on social media. The Park’s Twitter has gathered many fans, likely due to Katmai’s many puns and jokes, who added on to the fun with original memes. This fanbase has even become large enough to support a Wiki fandom page, with an abundance of fat bear pictures, yearly contest results, bear mating habits, family trees, and footage of drama they get up to. One recent scandal involved 747 seemingly “telling” 32 Chunk “to stay away from his woman,” 482 Brett, as 32 Chunk has developed a reputation as a womanizer, courting multiple females most years.
32 Chunk put up a good fight, but, in the end, only one bear could be crowned the fattest of them all. Congratulations to 747 from the Quaker Campus.
For more information on this year’s Fat Bear Week finals, readers can visit Katmai National Park’s Fat Bear Week website, @KatmaiNPS on Twitter, or their Wiki fandom for more narrative and in-depth details from park rangers and fans.
Feature image: Courtesy of Katmai National Park
Annalisse Galaviz is the News Editor for the Quaker Campus. She has worked for the paper since 2018 in former roles as a copy editor and news assistant. She likes writing about hard-hitting current events and, naturally, spends most of her time on political Twitter so she can do this. Assuming she has free time, she enjoys writing bad poems and fiction stories.