The competition to decide the chonk champion is on as the framework for Fat Bear Week 2022 has been revealed.
Southwest Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve announced the 12 bears competing in this year’s event, showcasing a mix of past winners and fan favorites, along with some new faces to freshen up the action
It’s actually a difficult task to decide which bears will be selected for the competition, said Lian Law, the park’s visual information specialist and responsible for Fat Bear Week.
The process starts in the summer because that’s when the bears are still a little thin. Contest officials check them again in late summer after they put on weight eating salmon. They are also wild animals, so it is difficult to find them and take photos that show their bulky shape.
“Getting these images is very difficult. Some of the bears, this time of year, don’t even come out of the water, hardly ever come out of their fishing grounds,” Law said. “They don’t just show up on the schedule.”
Fortunately, some of the hottest bears to do the competition are back again. Of the eight bears that have never been named champion, six previous winners are in the 2022 class, including four-time champion and 2021 Fat Bear Week winner 480 Otis.
And even with other favorites like the 435 Holly and 747 returning, don’t rule out any newcomers making a run at the title.
“Bears are individuals and have different personalities and life histories,” Law said. “It’s always interesting to see the new arrivals and what they bring.”
Voting starts on October 5th and lasts until October 11th. You can vote here.
Here are the 12 bears vying for the crown this year, along with some personal information about each.
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- 480 Otis, in his mid-20s, is one of the older male bears.
- He is missing two canine teeth and the others are worn out.
- Big Bear Week Champion 2021.
- 435 Holly was the 2019 Fat Bear Week Champion.
- One of the oldest bears using the Brooks River.
- Defense of fishing grounds and their cubs.
- One of the largest and most dominant bears.
- Distinctive scar on muzzle.
- Wait for scraps and scraps from other bears.
- He is about 17-19 years old.
- Their coat is darker in the fall.
- A staunch defender of prime fishing spots.
- 335 was part of 435 Holly’s most recent litter of puppies.
- She considers herself a sub-adult, the teenage girls of the bear world, and is learning to navigate the world without her mother.
- He is often seen playing with other adolescent bears.
- He is about six years old.
- Ability to find unique fishing spots and avoid other bears.
- Creative thinker.
- 747 is the largest bear known to use the Brooks River, crowned the 2020 Big Bear Champion.
- He’s heavily scarred, though his size alone intimidates most bears into leaving valuable fishing grounds without a fight.
- At the top of the bear hierarchy at Brooks Falls.
- 856 is a large male, approximately 20 years old and highly ranked within the bear hierarchy.
- Its only real competition in the falls is 747.
- It has relatively few scars compared to other bears.
- 854 Divot is approximately 20 years old.
- He was caught in an illegal wire trap that left a scar and had to be removed from his neck in 2014.
- A resilient queen.
- It is one of the largest bears that use the river.
- He has an assertive disposition.
- An expert fisherman in fishing.
- 901 is a young bear, first identified as a two-and-a-half-year-old in 2018.
- He doesn’t like to “play fight” like the other young bears.
- Independent, assertive and sometimes mischievous.
909’s Yearling Cub
- The 909 Yearling Cub was first seen on the river in 2021.
- He is social and has quickly picked up his mother’s fishing techniques.
- She is already catching fish on her own, a huge success and a positive sign for a bear her age.
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.