Fat Bear Week 2021 Has A Winner And Hoo Boy, He's A Big 'Un

Image credit: Katmai National Park and Preserve, L. Law via Flickr, Public Domain, lesiaboiko/Shutterstock, and IFLScience 

You might not think that being old, comparatively toothless, and showing up late would be the makings of a winner, but for four-time champion 480 Otis these setbacks are no matter when it comes to competing for Katmai National Park and Explore.org's Fat Bear Week 2021 title. While not the largest bear in this year’s running, his #TransformationTuesday clearly won over hearts and minds in the final vote yesterday as he was crowned victor over 151 Walker with a lead of over 6,000 votes.

As a well-known face among Fat Bear Week fanatics, 25-year-old Otis has accrued quite the following in his time but with fame comes great controversy. In spats more commonly associated with the scandalous annual New Zealand Bird of the Year Competition, people took to social media with claims that his title was delivered to him by the “sympathy vote army”.

Salty words, or a fishy competition? We don’t know and we don’t care. Fat Bear Week is a time where we come together to celebrate all bears and their bodacious efforts. A quick skim of Otis’s portfolio certainly proves he’s a worthy contender, rarely being photographed without food in his mouth and having completely transformed from quite a skinny frame earlier this year to the absolute unit we see today.

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“He came back to the river later than average for him,” Mike Fitz, creator of the competition and resident naturalist with Explore.org, told the Washington Post. “He was quite thin at that time, but he’s filled in nicely.”

A good thing too, for an elderly bear, as the looming hibernation will be tough on Otis’s body. Reemergence from the annual slumber is never promised for these bears, which is why gorging on the sockeye salmon of KTP is as delicious as it is vital for these enormous animals.

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Quite the before and after, Otis. Image credit: Katmai National Park & Preserve, Explore.org, N boak, C spencer

It’s fitting, then, that in what has been a difficult year for many, we’re reminded of the power of perseverance as even an elderly bear considered to be the “underdog” by some strolled in late and took the title. In true Fat Bear Week style, Otis’s victory was marked with some alliteration to end all alliteration from the KTP socials.

“The people have spoken! The portly patriarch of paunch persevered to pulverize the Baron of Beardonkadonk in the final match of #FatBearWeek 2021. 480 Otis can now boast a bevy of bests w/ this fourth 1st place finish. As we celebrate, like a true champ 480 is still chowing down.”

Congratulations Otis, you earned it.

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