NP
Otis, the 2021 champion

Raise your glass to his excellency, Bear 480, and cheers to a happy hibernation.

J.D. Simkins  – October 6, 2021

Katmai National Park has bestowed the crown of its annual Fat Bear Week upon his majesty, Mr. Eat-All-Day-From-Katmai, Bear 480, also known as Otis.

First documented as an approximately 5-year-old bear in 2001, Otis is known as one of the rare senior citizen bears who frequents the Alaskan park’s salmon-rich Brooks River. His older age, missing and worn teeth, and competition from more agile, youthful counterparts presents a challenge that makes this victory even more impressive.

Wise ol’ Otis “recognizes that patience is a successful strategy,” his official contestant bio reads. “[He] rarely makes an effort to chase salmon like younger, more energetic bears. Once access to his preferred fishing spots becomes available, he takes advantage of the opportunity while expending little energy. While Otis occasionally appears to be napping or not paying attention, most of the time he’s focused on the water, and he experiences a relatively high salmon catch rate as a result.”

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Smarter than the average bear.

The win—Otis finished with 51,230 votes to Bear 151’s 44,834—makes Otis a four-time champion, having previously earned the coveted title of “fattest” in 2014, 2016, and 2017. Although park personnel saw him return to the Brooks River later in season than usual this year, Otis wasted little time courtesy of his “mastery of fishing.”

Conducted every year since 2014, the contest concluded as Alaska’s bear population races to tack on extra calories ahead of months of winter hibernation, a period when they will go without food and water and lose a staggering one-third of their total body weight.

“For bears, fat equals survival,” National Park Service officials wrote on the park website. “Each winter, bears enter the den where they will not eat or drink until they emerge in spring. … Survival depends on eating a year’s worth of food in six months. At Katmai, bears are drawn to the large number of salmon readily available from roughly late June through September. … Fat bears exemplify the richness of this area, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.”

It’s believed Otis will be celebrating his remarkable victory by devouring salmon, followed by a period of intense dozing and tree-assisted back scratches, and of course, more salmon.

Raise your glass to his excellency, Otis, and cheers to a happy hibernation.