All Hail 747, Your Hefty Fat Bear Champion of 2020

All Hail 747, Your Hefty Fat Bear Champion of 2020
That's a fat bear. (Photo: National Park Service/Explore.org)

There can only be one true winner of Fat Bear Week. I’m pleased to announce 2020’s beefiest bear is 747.

The aptly named ursine version of a jumbo jet won a bracket competition, beating out other monster bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska to claim the title. Now, we celebrate his claiming of the crown.

Fat Bear Week comes but once a year, during which time the doom feed is momentarily muffled by the gloriously hefty boys (and girls!) of Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska. The brown bears of the Brooks River have spent the last couple of months packing on the pounds by gorging themselves on a bounty of sockeye salmon and whatever other rich and delicious foods they can scrounge up. With winter hibernation nearing, they’re at peak plumpness.

In the spring, these bears emerged from their dens having lost a up to a third of their body weight while they were snoozing through the winter. The spring and summer are a time to pack on the pounds, with the bears of Katmai National Park really leaning into their annual binge toward the end of June. The bears must add enough heft to their curvy figures as possible, a practice that’s afforded us this profoundly satisfying tradition of Fat Bear Week.

A stunning transformation. (Graphic: National Park Service/Explore.org) A stunning transformation. (Graphic: National Park Service/Explore.org)

Fat Bear Week is run by Explore.org and the park as a way to celebrate the bears’ achievements, typically starting around the beginning of October. That’s when these bears have packed on enough girth for those bodacious before and after photos that really bring their progress into sharp focus. Explore.org’s webcams have also given users all summer to watch the bears’ transformations and antics along the Brooks River. With the pandemic limiting travel to anywhere this year, let alone Katmai, the cams have been particularly soothing stress reliever.

For the last week, ursine aficionados have cast their votes for participating bears in this single-elimination bracket. Facing off for the final round were 32 (aka Chunk) and 747, two supremely rotund contenders. But only one bear can be crowned winner, and this year, 747 took home the title for most portly, having amassed enough fat to virtually double its mass. I mean, look at that before photo!

747 unseats last year’s winner Holly, a superbly round bear who again competed in this year’s bracket but failed to make it to the finals. That’s alright, though. Holly — and all of Katmai’s fat bears for that matter — is a winner in our books.