In a year that’s seen the postponing of such celebrated events as the Olympics, Coachella, and the European Song Contest, there’s been little to look forward to on the calendar. But there are some things in life that wait for no pandemic and following promising news of an unprecedented salmon run in these unprecedented times, Fat Bear Week 2020 was the gift we all needed this year. It's been a riotous week of voting, with chubby bears pitted against each other to see who has piled on the most pounds in an online battle that saw people across the globe fight to crown their champion the victor. So, who was the roundest of them all?
The Katmai National Park in Alaska is home to some of the planet's chunkiest bears (check them out on bearcam), but as victor of Fat Bear Week, there can be only one: Congratulations, 747!
The behemoth, and excellently named, 747 took down two bears to reach the final, where he came out on top against promising contender (also aptly named) Chunk, with 47,300 votes, becoming this year’s champion. Much like his namesake plane, 747 is a very large and wide-bodied bear whose portfolio of photos is all the proof you need to see why this worthy giant took the 2020 title.
While his victory demonstrates that bear 747 is one of the largest and heaviest bears on the Brooks River, this is in fact the first year he's won. He was first classified in 2004 and has spent the years that followed bulking up, but it wasn’t until his belly extended to the point of seemingly dragging along the ground in 2020 that the team at the Katmai National Park and Preserve (KNPP) recognized him as a serious contender for the crown.
Following his win, it’s been reported that 747 has returned to his favorite spot to bask in his glory, fishing in the jacuzzi near the Brooks Falls, one of his favorite fishing spots.
This archived footage shows 747 being displaced from his favorite fishing spot by another of the KNPP's bears.
While there can be only one winner, after such a fruitful summer season of feasting the entire 12-bear cast of Fat Bear Week will reap the benefits of their labor, as the descent into winter marches on. Their voluminous and fat-lined fur coats will insulate, hydrate, and sustain these bears as they shelter in the snow for their long winter torpor. Come spring, after using up their generous fat reserves they will emerge again, lighter in mind and body, and ready to take on another summer season of salmon snacking. As residents of the KNPP and Bristol Bay Alaska, a wild region that is home to more brown bears than people, the bears benefit year-on-year from one of the largest and healthiest runs of sockeye salmon left on the planet.
Good work, 747. We think you’ve earned a snooze.