Fat Bear Week 2022: Meet this year's chunky challengers competing for the top spot
Fat Bear Week is an annual, single-elimination tournament in which the public votes for which bear they think is the fattest. The competition highlights the importance of just how much bears need to bulk up for hibernation.
Otis, Fat Bear Week 2021 winner, defends his fishing spot as the bear bulks up in preparation for hibernation. (Video: National Park Service and explore.org)
It’s that time of year again – bears are preparing for hibernation, and the public gets to judge a chosen sleuth of bears who have been packing on the pounds for this year's Fat Bear Week competition.
Fat Bear Week is an annual, single-elimination tournament in which the public votes for which bear they think is the fattest. Not only are they voting for the chunkiest contender, but they are also judging which bear was most successful in preparing for hibernation.
"Which brown bear best transcends the ordinarily large and enters the realm of extraordinarily fat?" Explore.org, the creator of the competition, asks. "There’s no fat shaming in Fat Bear Week. Fat bears exemplify the richness of Katmai National Park and Bristol Bay, Alaska."
The bears along the Brooks River in Alaska have been consuming their final meals, and the competition highlights the importance of bulking up for their winter hibernation.
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32 Chunk: Chunk is a large adult male with narrowly-set eyes, a prominent brow ridge, and a distinctive scar across his muzzle. Even at his leanest, Chunk carries substantial fat reserves, especially on his hind quarters. In early summer he tends to shed much of the fur around his shoulders and neck. This gives him a two-toned appearance and exposes numerous scars and wounds. By late summer, his newly grown fur is dark brown
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128 Grazer: Grazer is a large adult female with a long straight muzzle and conspicuously blond ears. During late summer and fall, she has grizzled, light brown fur and is often one of the fattest bears to utilize Brooks River. In 2022, she returned to the river with twin 2.5 year-old cubs.
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151 Walker: Walker is a large adult male with a light-bulb or pear-shaped body in September and October. He has a long, tapering muzzle and widely spaced, upright ears. In early summer he has prominent dark eye-rings. By late summer his fur is dark brown. He currently has a large wound on his right thigh that will likely produce a noticeable scar.
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164: Bear 164 is a small adult male. In early summer, he has light brown body fur with darker brown fur on his lower legs. His fur coat becomes a rich medium-brown by late summer. Although his ears are blonder than many male bears, 164’s most distinctive physical feature is an indentation at the base of his upper muzzle.
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335: Bear 335 is a medium-small subadult. Her fur is light blond in early summer, although it darkens to a grizzled tan-brown in late summer.
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435 Holly: Holly is a large adult female with blond ears and pale, tan-colored claws. By early autumn, she is usually very fat with grizzled blond fur. Her appearance at that time somewhat resembles the shape and color of a lightly toasted marshmallow.
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480 Otis: Otis is a medium-large adult male with a blocky muzzle and a floppy right ear. He has light brown fur in early summer. By autumn, his coat becomes grizzled brown and he sports a patch of blonder fur on his left shoulder.
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747: Bear 747 is a very large adult male with a blocky muzzle and a floppy right ear. In early summer, his reddish-brown fur sheds in a patchy manner. Like many adult males, he often has scars and wounds on his face and neck. In late summer and fall, he is typically very fat with a low-hanging belly and uniformly dark brown fur.
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854 Divot: Divot is a medium-large adult female with a short, straight muzzle and closely spaced eyes. Her fur is light brown or tan in early summer but becomes a richer brown after she sheds and grows her winter coat. Divot’s most distinctive feature is a prominent scar that completely encircles her neck.
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856: This is a very large and tall adult male. He has uniformly brown fur and light-brown ears. In early summer, numerous scars and wounds are visible on 856’s head and neck. By late summer his fur is dark brown. Behaviorally, 856 is quite bold and assertive toward other bears.
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901: This is a medium-small yet quickly growing adult female. Bear 901 has blond-rimmed, triangular ears. Her fur is golden brown in early summer and grizzled-brown in late summer.
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909's Yearling: This almost two-year-old cub has a skinny neck, a large head, and medium-brown fur with grizzled tips.
Bristol Bay is a wild region of Alaska and is home to more brown bears than people and the largest, healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.
A record number of sockeye salmon returned to Bristol Bay this summer, according to explore.org.