Voting is over and a new chunky champion has been crowned in the annual Fat Bear Week contest.
The competition was fierce this year, with 12 corpulent candidates vying for the title of the Internet’s most beloved bulky bear.
Without further ado, the 2023 winner is a fabulously fat and spunky mama bear who raised two litters of cubs, dubbed “128 Grazer” by the US National Parks Service, which organises the contest every year.
The NPS says Grazer is “particularly defensive” and “often preemptively confronts and attacks much larger bears – even large and dominant adult males – in order to ensure her cubs are safe.”
She was first identified by rangers in 2005, as one of the many bears fishing for salmon in the Brooks River in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.
This year, the single mama bear didn’t have a litter to defend, but still got prime pickins when it came to fishing spots because the bears remembered her legendary temper.
She won the hearts of voters for her bad girl reputation and, of course, her delightfully portly physique.
It was a landslide victory for Grazer, who beat out runner-up 32 Chunk, an “independent, chunky-looking 2.5-year-old (male) bear” in the final round with 108,321 votes to his 23,134 votes, according to Explore.org, which keeps track of the online contest for the NPS.
Chunk was one of the fattest bears on the list, with “substantial fat reserves” in his rear end, even at his leanest. That dump truck wasn’t enough to get him the gold, sadly.
But we thank him for his participation nonetheless.
Another honourable mention goes out to 435 Holly, whose “life is one of hardship, surprises, and success.”
The fan-favourite and 2019 Fat Bear Week champion lost against Grazer in the second round this year, but she still made her mark on the competition.
Holly raised four cubs on her own, two of which weren’t even hers. She returned this year as a bachelorette, finally able to focus on her own needs as she prepares for the long winter ahead.
A true inspiration, who will surely be back and better than ever next year.
What is Fat Bear Week?
Fat Bear Week began in 2014 as a way to educate the public about brown bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park.
Katmai is home to approximately 2,200 brown bears, who have been following the same seasonal patterns for thousands of years.
Every year the bears’ mission is to fatten up, packing on enough pounds by eating mostly sockeye salmon in the park’s rivers in order to get through the winter, when they’ll hibernate for months at a time.
Gaining enough weight is a question of survival – these bears can consume up to 54 kilograms of salmon every day, and some male bears can reach up to 540 kilograms by the end of the season.
Fat Bear Week invites people around the world to vote on which bear did the best job – comparing before and after pictures and giving details of each bear’s personal journey.
The competition has become so popular around that world that it even faced a voting fraud scandal last year, when Holly (remember Holly?) was wrongly named the winner of the semifinals, due to 9,000 fraudulent votes being cast in her favour.
Katmai National Park quickly rectified the situation, and Holly once again lost her crown.
But her time will come! There’s always next year.