Fat Bear Week 2022: Who is getting extra fluffy for winter?

Only the chunkiest bear will come out on top. Which will it be? Vote now at the Katmai National Parks website!

 Grazer and her cubs in early summer, before they put on their hibernation weight.  (photo credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve)
Grazer and her cubs in early summer, before they put on their hibernation weight.
(photo credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve)

Fat Bear Week 2022 is in full swing. The event, organized by Katmai National Park in Alaska, is a March madness-style event in which participants can vote on the fattest bear. During this time of year, Alaska's brown bears are at their chubbiest as they prepare for winter hibernation. 

North American brown bears, also called grizzly bears, can potentially double their weight during the summer and autumn months. They eat an extremely wide variety of foods and are largely pescatarian. They eat all kinds of flora - acorns, mushrooms, flowers and more - as well as fish and bugs. Grizzlies have also been known to enjoy a good rodent snack when they're available.

All bears in the running for Fat Bear Week are identified and categorized by the National Parks Service in Alaska. There are eight in total, but only four are left in the game as it stands right now. 

32 "Chunk"

32 Chunk is estimated to be in his late teens with an impressive build. According to the Katmai National Park site, he is "known to arrive in spring [after hibernation] still carrying weight from the previous fall, mostly in his hind quarters." He is a patient, skilled fisher, but will still eat scraps leftover from others. He also "does not hesitate to challenge and displace others from the resources he wants." 

 Bear 32, Chunk, at his chunkiest.  (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve) Bear 32, Chunk, at his chunkiest. (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve)

Chunk is a versatile individual and a strong contender for Fattest Bear of 2022. 

128 "Grazer"

128 Grazer is also in her late teens, with distinctive fluffy blonde ears. She is a proud mother, quick to defend her cubs whom she has kept with her for a third summer in order to help them hone their fishing technique. Her dominance and assertive nature not only grants her access to prime fishing locations, but also grants her cubs access. 

 Bear 128 Grazer in all her glory. (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve) Bear 128 Grazer in all her glory. (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve)

Mama Grazer has yet to win a Fat Bear Week, but this may be her year. 

435 "Holly"

Holly is one of the older bears in the competition, estimated to be in her mid-to-late-20s. The Katmai National Park site describes her as having a "toasted marshmallow" colored coat. She also has blonde ears and a distinctive manicure - that is to say, "noticeably light claws."

 Bear 435 Holly. Notice her claws visible underwater.  (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve) Bear 435 Holly. Notice her claws visible underwater. (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve)

Miss Holly was the 2019 Fat Bear Week champion. She has secured a range of fishing spots for herself and defends them from encroaching competitors. She is a seasoned mother of four litters. In 2014 she even adopted a cub whom she did not birth and raised him as her own. 

This season she has no cubs, thus no need to split her resources, and therefore was able to gain a considerable amount of weight. She might see her second win this year. 

480 "Otis"

Like Holly, Otis is on the older side, in his mid-to-late 20s. He is also a returning champion with four previous crowns - 2021, 2017, 2016 and 2014. He is a top-tier fisher, which is why he is able to gain so much weight time and again. According to the Katmai National Park site, "he successfully uses a more patient strategy, employing a sit-and-wait method to conserve the energy that is so valuable when trying to gain weight for the winter."

 Bear 480, Otis, after several months of packing on the pounds. (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve) Bear 480, Otis, after several months of packing on the pounds. (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve)

Although Otis is not the most conventionally handsome grizzly, with his missing teeth and floppy right ear, he definitely has a shot at his fifth crown in 2022. 

Honorable mention: Mischievous Miss 901

 Miss 901 at full chonk levels, ready for hibernation.  (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve) Miss 901 at full chonk levels, ready for hibernation. (credit: Courtesy L. Law via Katmai National Park and Preserve)

Although Miss 901 did not make it into the final four of Fat Bear Week 2022, she deserves special mention if only because she is the only bear on the list who, notably, likes to visit campgrounds and cause a little bit of trouble. She is often seen "frequenting Brooks Camp and investigating human structures." She is still young, and might be one to keep an eye on for 2023.