Fat Bear Week

Otis, winner of the 2021 Fat Bear competition (Photo C Spencer/NPS/Reuters from https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/oct/07/fat-bear-week-2022-alaska


Dear Readers, it’s been one helluva fortnight here at Schloss Bugwoman, what with bereavement, the government finally losing their collective mind, the environment in even more jeopardy than usual and the prospect of a cold, dark winter ahead. However, the grizzly bears of the Katmai National Park in Alaska are all prepared for the aforesaid cold, dark winter, because they have been stuffing their faces on salmon so that they’ll have enough fat reserves to last them through hibernation and into the spring. And so, in 2014 the Katmai Rangers started ‘Fat Bear Thursday’, so that people could vote for their favourite bear. By this year, the competition has expanded to a whole week, from 5th October to 11th October. Two candidates go head-to-head every day, and the bear with the most votes advances in the competition. YouWhat looks like a bit of fun has proven to actually be an excellent way to educate people about the challenges that these amazing animals face, and to encourage emotional involvement too. Otis, for example, who is in the photo at the top of the page, is an older male, whose teeth are beginning to give him problems. He is now frequently moved on from his favourite angling spots by younger, more aggressive males.  However, he is also an excellent fisherman, and once ate 42 salmon at a single sitting. Otis won ‘Fat Bear of the Year’ in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2021, so it would be a brave person who discounted him now.

However, he has competition in the form of Chunk.

Chunk is a very big, dominant male, who displays some characteristics that show real confidence – he’s been seen playing with other bears, and will wait patiently to scavenge on salmon that’s been left by other bears. Could it be that he’s just a big softie?

The boys don’t have it all their own way, though.

Holly was champion Fat Bear in 2019, and with good reason – not only is she a very fat bear, but she not only managed to rear one cub who was born with a limp to successful adulthood, she also took in a yearling orphaned bear cub and raised him as her own. She is one of the most experienced bears on the Brooks River (which runs through Katmai National Park, and provides all that salmon). She is probably my favourite, so fingers crossed!

Divot is another large female bear with an interesting back story. In 2014 she left the park, and ended up trapping her head in a wire snare set for wolves (you can still see the circular scar around her neck). Fortunately she was tranquillised by park rangers and the snare was removed. The rescue was made all the trickier because she had a young cub with her, but the story has a happy ending, and Divot is now back in the park, and sometimes fishes alongside the larger adult males. Clearly, she is not a bear to be messed with. You can watch the whole rescue here. It is truly appalling what these snares do to animals.

And finally, here’s who I think might well win this year: 747.

Named after a jumbo jet, he is currently the river’s most dominant bear, and is so huge that other bears largely just move out of the way. He’s been estimated to weigh in at 1400 pounds (100 stone! 656 kg!). If the competition goes solely on size, he is likely to win again, just as he did in 2020. But the public are fickle, and are often swayed by the tales of these remarkable animals. Plus, there’s no prize for the bears, except for fame and the increased chance of being large enough to survive through the winter.

You can vote, find out all the details and watch webcams, learn the stories of the bears etc, here. Have a look! It certainly cheered me up.


3 thoughts on “Fat Bear Week

  1. lankanladyinthemaking

    Holly’s story warms my heart! Also, having experienced the most horrible power outages in my country due to the economic crisis I send my most sincere prayers, stay strong and it will be alright!


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