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Meet 747, the Big Winner of Fat Bear Week

Animals
Meet 747, the Big Winner of Fat Bear Week
747 is the big winner of Fat Bear Week 2020 in Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. Katmai National Park and Preserve

For bears and the people that love them, it's the most wonderful time of the year.


Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska wrapped up its annual Fat Bear Week competition Tuesday, in which online fans vote for the coastal brown bear that has had the most success bulking up ahead of winter hibernation.

"The votes are in! You've crowned the Earl of Avoirdupois, bear 747, the 2020 Fat Bear Week Champion," the park announced on Twitter.

 

This is the first time bear 747 has won the competition, though he was last year's runner-up, The Washington Post reported. He was first identified in 2004, according to his bio on the competition website. At the time, he was still a growing bear who could not compete for the choice fishing areas along the national park's Brooks Falls. He has significantly beefed up since then, and is now so big that no other bear dare challenge him for prime riverfront real estate. In fall 2019, park workers estimated that 747 weighed more than 1,400 pounds, and they think he likely weighs as much or more this year.

"Many staff who've worked at Katmai for many years say that [747] is the biggest bear they have ever seen," Katmai media ranger Naomi Boak told The Washington Post. "It's pure coincidence that he has the same name as a jumbo jet, but he is the size of a jumbo jet."

To earn his crown, 747 faced off against runner-up Chunk, or bear 32.

 

Chunk was estimated to be more than 1,100 pounds in 2019, but he has become something of a gentle giant.

"In recent years he's shown a tendency to wait patiently to scavenge leftover salmon and even play with other bears," his bio reads. "These are two uncommon behaviors for a dominant bear to display. Due to his size and strength, 32 Chunk is poised to take advantage of opportunities not available to most other bears. Yet, it is only by observing his full range of behaviors that we can get a true sense of his individuality."

Fat Bear Week started in 2014 in order to honor the bears of Katmai National Park in their efforts to fatten up for winter. During hibernation, a bear loses a third of its body mass, the competition website explains, so the summer and fall feasting serves a vital purpose.

At Katmai National Park, the bears' preferred food is sockeye salmon. These fish have about 4,500 calories each, and the bears can eat more than two dozen per day, USA TODAY reported. The bears of Katmai are especially lucky, because the park has one of the biggest sockeye salmon runs in the world, the park said. And this year, the salmon run broke records, Reuters reported.

Katmai National Park has the world's densest concentration of brown bears. The bears like to feast along Brooks River, where people from all over the world can watch them on a webcam.

Since its debut, Fat Bear Week has become increasingly popular. A record 187,000 people voted in 2019, while more than 550,000 voted this year, The Washington Post reported.

"What a curative healing pleasure it is to, one, be able to laugh, and, two, be connected to nature by understanding the achievements of these individual bears," Boak told the Post. "I think such a cheerful release. And, quite frankly, how often does one get to celebrate fatness?"

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