And the Fat Bear Week Champion Is ...

Update Wednesday, Oct 9

Do we even need to say it? Was it ever in doubt?

The winner of Fat Bear Week, a contest held by Katmai National Park in Alaska to find the fattest-looking brown bear on the Brooks River, is ...

Here's Holly before the competition began, immersed in her rigorous training regime...

How did she do it? Well, in October, Brooks Falls acts as a temporary barrier for migrating sockeye salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. That means the river is like a veritable brown bear all-you-can-eat buffet of big, delicious fish, and Holly, apparently, went at it like the ursine glutton she is.

We'll be back in October 2020 for another round of coverage, when Lefty, Grazer, Chunk and the gang will all be looking to supplant Holly as the salmon-chomping champion of Fat Bear Week.

See you then, everybody!

Update Tuesday, Oct 8

We are still waiting for a resolution to the one question that has riveted the nation over the last week:

Who is the fattest bear in Alaska's Katmai National Park?

The finalists in the annual March Madness-style competition to find the fattest-looking brown bear on the Brooks River are Lefty and Holly. Peruse the paunchy pair's before-and-after and decide for yourself ...

Underdog Lefty had to go through 32 Chunk and Bear 747 to win the right to face off against fan favorite Holly, who got a bye in the first round because she is "really fat," according to the National Park Service. But Katmai has also assessed her opponent Lefty as "astonishingly obese," so it's going to be a barn-burner, folks.

How did the bears get so portly? Well, in October, Brooks Falls acts as a temporary barrier for migrating sockeye salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. That means the river is like a veritable brown bear all-you-can-eat buffet of big, delicious fish.

We have devoted the entire resources of the KQED Science unit to following the competition. Who will be this year's top Alaskan ursine glutton? Stay tuned ...

Original post:

The National Park Service on Wednesday began its annual March Madness-style competition to find the fattest-looking brown bear on the Brooks River in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.

While there are many worthy contenders, there can be only one.

Will it be Otis? Good technique, and a strong social media presence...

This is the fifth time the bear has competed, and the park describes him as a "zen-master" whose strategy is to "move less, eat more." Yep, smart bear.

The Ursine Glutton, however, is facing massive competition. Katmai National Park has one of the largest concentrations of brown bears in the world. Adult male brown bears in the park routinely weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

Like, there's Holly -- she's gonna be tough...

In October, Brooks Falls acts as a temporary barrier for migrating sockeye salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. That means the river is like a veritable brown bear all-you-can eat buffet of big, delicious fish.

Lucky for us -- and if you've put money on the tourney, this goes double -- the park also has sophisticated live streaming webcams pointed at the river's best fishing spots, where you'll frequently see multiple bears wrestling, doing belly flops and gorging on sweet, sweet salmon.

They even have a camera underwater, so you can see the fish without whose participation "Fat Bear Week" would need a name change.

Let's go the highlight reel ...

The competition's first round pits 480 Otis against 775 Lefty. Meanwhile, 854 Divot goes up against Bear 402.

Bears that received byes into Friday's second round are 32 Chunk, Bear 747, Bear 503 and Holly. (Some bears only get a number, apparently -- that's gotta be emotionally hurtful.)

But why do some bears get a bye?

“The bears got a bye into the second round because they are really fat," said Naomi Boak, a spokeswoman for the park whose job seems really cool. "They worked hard for their fatness. Plus, they are fan favorites.”

Last year's winning bear was 409 Beadnose, who “declined to participate by not showing up this year,” Boak said.

Pretty lame, 409 Beadnose. Pret-ty pret-ty, lame.


In its fifth year, the competition is decided by bearcam viewers who choose the bear that looks the heaviest, an indication of “good health and strong chances of survival,” according to a Park Service release.

“During winter hibernation, which can last for up to half of the year in their den, a bear could lose up to one third of its body mass,” the release said. “In preparation, the bears are entering hyperphagia this time of year, a state in which they eat nearly nonstop.”

You can -- nay, should -- cast your vote on the park’s Facebook page.

The bear with the most likes advances to the next round, and the winner will be announced on Oct. 8, which the Park Service calls “Fat Bear Tuesday," and we call "Check to See Who Won Fat Bear Tuesday Tuesday."

Coverage to ensue ...

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