Ursus gluttonous maximus: 480 Otis wins Alaska’s Fat Bear Week contest
Beefy brown bear, missing two canine teeth, prevails in vote that compares pre-hibernation weight gain in Katmai national park
Beefy brown bear 480 Otis has been named the winner of Alaska’s popular Fat Bear Week contest, an annual competition comparing the pre-hibernation weight gain of the largest inhabitants of Katmai national park in the south-west of the state.
The heavyweight champ, who has won the competition three times previously, was declared the winner late on Tuesday, beating runner-up 151 Walker by more than 6,000 public votes.
“The people have spoken! The portly patriarch of paunch persevered to pulverize the Baron of Beardonkadonk,” tweeted the park after the votes were counted. “As we celebrate, like a true champ 480 is still chowing down.”
Over the short summer and fall in Alaska, pre-hibernation weight gain is especially important for bears heading into the long, freezing winter, allowing them to emerge healthy if very thin from hibernation when spring comes around.
Adult male bears usually weigh between 600 to 900lb and can weigh 1,000lb by the time they retreat into their natural dens to hibernate, which are often caves or hollows burrowed out at the base of large trees.
While Otis 480 may not be the largest brown bear in the park, his incredible weight gain and personal backstory grabbed the attention of the thousands of bear enthusiasts who participate in the competition each year.
In addition to being one of the oldest bears in the 4.1m-acre park, 480 Otis is also missing two of his canine teeth with his other teeth being extremely worn, according to his biography.
480 Otis also got a late start on his feeding and was very thin, making his the true underdog story of Fat Bear Week this year. Bears gorge as much as they can on nature’s offerings before the dark months, especially fish, berries and roots, grass and small land creatures.
“He came back to the river later than average for him. He was quite thin at that time, but he’s filled in nicely,” said Mike Fitz, creator of the competition and resident naturalist with Explore.org to the Washington Post. “It’s really fun to see people’s love for Otis being expressed through the competition and through their campaign efforts.”
In addition to his recent win, 480 Otis remains one of the most popular bears at Katmai, sporting his own Facebook page.