Fat Bear Week 2021

Fat Bear Week 2021 Bracket with 12 bear photos. Match 1: 435 vs. 128. Match 2: 151 vs. 634. Match 3: 812 vs. 131. Match 4: 480 vs. 402. Match 5: Winner of Match 1 vs. Winner of Fat Bear Junior. Match 6: Winner of Match 2 vs. 32. Match 7: Winner of Match 3
The official bracket of Fat Bear Week 2021

2021 Fat Bear Week!

Fat Bear Week is a celebration of success and survival. It is a way to celebrate the resilience, adaptability and strength of Katmai’s brown bears. Bears are matched against each other in a “march madness” style competition and online visitors can vote who is ultimately crowned the Fat Bear Week 2021 Champion. Over the course of the week, virtual visitors learn more about the lives and histories of individual bears while also gaining a greater understanding of Katmai’s ecosystem through a series of live events hosted on explore.org.

The people have spoken and a champion has been crowned! The portly patriarch of paunch persevered to garner your support over all other fat bears in Fat Bear Week 2021. 480 Otis can now boast a bevy of bests with this famed fourth 1st place finish.

Competitor lineup with slider comparison photos:


Bears are presented in numerical order with their slider photos, a brief summary of how to identify the bear and the bears biography.
 

32 Chunk

A bear with a gash across its muzzle stands in water A bear with a gash across its muzzle stands in water

Left image
32 Chunk on July 11, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Right image
32 Chunk on September 13, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Law

Identification
32 Chunk is a large adult male with narrowly-set eyes, a prominent brow ridge, and a distinctive scar across his muzzle. Even at his leanest, 32 Chunk carries substantial fat reserves, especially on his hind quarters. In early summer he tends to shed much of the fur around his shoulders and neck. This gives him a two-toned appearance and exposes numerous scars and wounds. By late summer, his newly grown fur is dark brown.

Biography
32 Chunk was first identified in 2007 as an independent, chunky-looking two and half year-old bear. Since then, he’s grown to become one of the largest adults at Brooks River. He was estimated to weigh more than 1,200 pounds (544 kg) in September 2020. 32 Chunk ranks among the most dominant bears at Brooks River. This allows him greater access to mating opportunities and fishing spots. Like most large bears, 32 Chunk is not hesitant to challenge and displace others from the resources he wants. However, his behavior can also be enigmatic. He may wait patiently to scavenge leftover salmon and even play with other bears. 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.

 

128 Grazer

A bear stands on a rock in the river with its fur drenched A bear stands on a rock in the river with its fur drenched

Left image
128 Grazer on July 7, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Law

Right image
128 Grazer on September 11, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Identification
128 Grazer is a large adult female with a long straight muzzle and conspicuously large blond ears. During late summer and fall, she has grizzled, light brown fur and is often one of the fattest bears to utilize Brooks River. In 2021, she returned to the river with two yearling cubs.

Biography
128 Grazer was introduced to Brooks River as a young cub in 2005. Since then, she’s become one the river’s most recognizable bears. Grazer can fish successfully in many locations, but she prefers the lip of Brooks Falls where she’s an especially skilled angler. In early fall, she can be more cryptic and often chooses to fish in other areas of the river.

128 Grazer is the most defensive mother bear at Brooks River. She often preemptively confronts and attacks much larger bears—including some of the river’s largest and most dominant adult males—in order to ensure her cubs are safe. Her defensiveness is risky, yet her yearling cubs benefit from their mother’s boldness in the face of danger and competition. Grazer provides them with protection and access to some of the most productive fishing spots at Brooks Falls.

 

131

A bear walking in water looking to the side A bear walking in water looking to the side

Left image
131 on July 16, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of C. Spencer

Right image
131 on September 16, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of C. Spencer

Identification
This relatively small subadult (teenage) female bear is one of the blondest bears at Brooks River. She has blond body fur and blond ears. Her claws are dark with tan-colored tips. In early summer she also has dark eye-rings.

Biography
Born in 2018, 131 is a young bear who has only recently begun life on her own. She was first identified as an independent two-year-old in 2020. The life of a subadult bear is often one filled with challenges. It is a time when a young bear must learn to navigate the world without mother’s guidance. Subadult bears rank at the bottom of the bear hierarchy. They are frequently displaced from productive fishing spots or prevented from accessing them by the presence of larger bears. Without easy access to salmon in early summer, 131 was forced to adapt and search for alternative foods, such as small mammals and vegetation. As she continues to grow and gain skill, 131 seems well positioned to use the lessons she learned with her mother and pick up some new tricks of her own to survive.

 

132's Spring Cub

a small cub standing in white flowers a small cub standing in white flowers

Left image
132's spring cub on July 7, 2021
Credit: NPS Photo/C. Spencer

Right image
132's spring cub on September 13, 2021
Credit: NPS Photo/C. Spencer

Identification

This 9-month-old bear has a short muzzle and shaggy brown fur.

Biography

This spring (first-year) cub is one of two surviving members of a litter of three cubs that arrived with their mother at Brooks River in early July. Bear 132 is an experienced mother who has used Brooks River every year since 2009. Perhaps to provide her cubs with a greater level of security, 132 rarely ventured in the vicinity of Brooks Falls this summer. She and her cubs fished areas farther downstream. The family also encountered people at Brooks Lodge when they sometimes ventured near the buildings.

Although this cub wasn’t exposed to productive fishing spots at the waterfall, it still experienced rapid growth. First year cubs gain body mass at proportionately greater rates than even the largest adult bears. A spring cub weighs about one pound (0.45 kg) at birth, yet cubs like 132’s may begin hibernation weighing more than 70 pounds (32 kg). This cub-of-the-year is poised to gain even more body mass over the next few weeks.

 

151 Walker

A large bear walking along the road with trees in the background A large bear walking along the road with trees in the background

Left image
151 Walker on July 4, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Law

Right image
151 Walker on September 13, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Law

Identification
151 Walker is a large adult male. He has a long, tapering muzzle and widely spaced, upright ears. In early summer he has prominent dark eye-rings and in late summer his fur is dark brown.

Biography
151 Walker was first identified as an independent two-year-old in 2009. He’s a frequent user of Brooks Falls where he prefers to fish in the far pool and on the lip. Downstream, he is often found fishing in the riffles.

151 Walker remained a tolerant bear during his young adult years. He allowed other bears to approach him and sought sparring partners for prolonged play fights. However, his priorities have changed as he matured into a fully grown adult. 151 Walker now ranks among the river’s largest bears and he’s become less tolerant of other bears, including some of his former playmates. With his increased body size and a more assertive disposition, 151 Walker is a more dominant bear compared to his younger days. His actions demonstrate that the behavior of bears can vary considerably over their lifetimes. 151 Walker was estimated to weigh about 1,000 pounds (454 kg) in September 2020, but appears to be larger this year.

 

402

A bear on the lip of a waterfall A bear on the lip of a waterfall

Left image
402 on July 7, 2021
Credit: NPS Photo/T. Carmack

Right image
402 on September 19, 2021
Credit: NPS Photo/T. Carmack

Identification

Bear 402 is one of the largest adult females at Brooks River. She has medium brown fur, tan-colored claws, and crescent or apostrophe-shaped ears. During years when she is not caring for cubs, she is also quite fat in late summer and fall.

Biography

Few bears can rival 402’s maternal experience. She is the mother of at least seven litters, more than any other bear currently at Brooks River. This includes two litters of four cubs apiece. Her life illustrates the triumphs and difficulties of raising cubs in a harsh and competitive environment.

While 402 has weaned many cubs, some of which still visit Brooks River, she’s also experienced the loss of entire litters. When a mother bear loses her litter in spring or early summer, it can trigger her to become receptive to mating once again. This explains why 402 bore litters in back-to-back years such as 2007 and 2008.

Her fishing skills and ability to get fat, however, have the most impact on her reproductive rate. Since bear cubs are born in the den while the mother hibernates, female bears need ample fat reserves to support the birth and growth of their cubs during a season when mothers do not have access to food or water. 402 is a skilled angler especially on the lip of Brooks Falls and often brings her cubs there. She is also an efficient scavenger of dead and dying salmon in the lower Brooks River. Although she was single in 2020 and 2021, with her current fat reserves she appears to be in excellent shape to support another litter of cubs this winter.

 

435 Holly

a bear standing on the bank with water behind a bear standing on the bank with water behind

Left image
435 Holly on July 12, 2021
Credit: NPS Photo/N. Boak

Right image
435 Holly on September 11, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Identification

In early summer, 435 Holly is a medium-large adult female with blond ears, blond fur, and pale, tan-colored claws. By early autumn, she is usually very fat with grizzled blond fur. Her appearance at that time somewhat resembles the shape and color of a toasted marshmallow.

Biography

When she was first identified in 2001, 435 Holly was just maturing into an adult. Since then, she has reared several litters of cubs and in the process has become one of the more experienced and tolerant mother bears at Brooks River.

Her maternal experiences haven’t been without hardship. When 435 Holly and her single yearling arrived in 2007, the yearling had a pronounced limp. Despite the challenges that accompanied her yearling’s injury, 435 Holly successfully cared for him. His leg healed by the end of that summer and he was weaned the following spring. This bear, now known as 89 Backpack, still uses Brooks River. In 2014 435 Holly adopted a lone yearling cub into her family. 435 Holly cared for and raised this bear alongside her biological cub, weaning them both in the spring of 2016. Each of those bears are now successful adults—503 and 719. 435 Holly’s spring cub in 2020 suffered from porcupine quills in a front paw, but when 435 Holly returned in 2021 her cub appeared to be fully healed. 435 Holly’s cubs have challenged her maternal skills in different ways, and she’s demonstrated the ability to adapt to their needs. She was the 2019 Fat Bear Week champion.

 

480 Otis

A skinny bear standing in water A skinny bear standing in water

Left image
480 Otis on July 26, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Right image
480 Otis on September 16, 2021
Credit: NPS Photo/C. Spencer

Identification

480 Otis is a medium-large adult male with a blocky muzzle and a floppy right ear. He has light brown fur in early summer. By autumn, his coat becomes grizzled brown and he sports a patch of blonder fur on his right shoulder.

Biography

480 Otis was four to six years old when he was first identified in 2001, and he’s now one of the older bears at Brooks River. As bears age, they experience a variety of challenges and 480 Otis is no exception. In particular, he is missing two canine teeth and many of his other teeth are greatly worn. 480 Otis must also compete with younger and larger bears who want access to his fishing spots. 480 Otis is more likely to be displaced by these bears than he is to displace them.

Still, he recognizes that patience is a successful strategy. 480 Otis rarely makes an effort to chase salmon like younger, more energetic bears. Once access to his preferred fishing spots becomes available, he takes advantage of the opportunity while expending little energy. While 480 Otis occasionally appears to be napping or not paying attention, most of the time he’s focused on the water, and he experiences a relatively high salmon catch rate as a result.

480 Otis returned to Brooks River later than usual in 2021. Yet, he quickly made up for lost time by utilizing his patience and mastery of fishing. He was the inaugural Fat Bear Tuesday champion in 2014 and Fat Bear Week champion in 2016 and 2017.

 

503

A bear standing on the lip of a waterfall A bear standing on the lip of a waterfall

Left image
503 on July 11, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Right image
503 on September 16, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Law

Identification
Bear 503 is a young adult male with crescent-shaped ears and long, lanky legs. In early summer, his fur is uniformly brown and he has dark eye rings. By late summer, his fur achieves a grizzled dark brown hue.

Biography

Bear 503 has led a particularly unique life. Most bears in Katmai separate from their mothers at the beginning of their third or fourth summer. However, 503 separated from his mother, 402, at the beginning of his second summer in 2014. Small, skinny, and alone, he faced significant uncertainties during this time, but bears are highly adaptable as the next event in 503’s life demonstrated. He was adopted by 435 Holly who was then caring for a single spring cub.

Through his subadult years and into early adulthood, 503 has remained curious and playful. He often initiates play fights with other bears including some who are larger and older. But will his playfulness and tolerance continue as he matures into a fully grown adult? Compared to their younger selves, most adult males have much different priorities such as maintaining their rank in the hierarchy and securing access to mates. This could be 503’s fate as well. Although much of his story remains to be written, 503’s life thus far illustrates that survival and success in the bear world do not have to follow a set formula.

 

634 Popeye

A bear standing in water with waterfall behind A bear standing in water with waterfall behind

Left image
634 Popeye on July 11, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Right image
634 Popeye on September 13, 2021
Credit: Photo from the explore.org bear cams

Identification

With his grizzled brown fur, prominent shoulder hump, and round face, 634 Popeye could be considered an archetypal brown bear. He is a large adult male with a slightly upturned muzzle and light brown or blond ears. As a young bear, his forearms were so well-furred that they appeared unusually large--a physical feature that inspired his nickname.

Biography

634 Popeye was an older subadult when he was first identified in 2002, which places him in his early twenties in 2021. As an aging male, he experiences stiff competition from younger and larger bears, but Popeye has shown a great ability to work around those other bears when necessary.

He carries few old scars, unlike most adult males his age, but he has certainly dealt with injury. In both 2004 and 2017, 634 Popeye returned to Brooks River with a severe limp. In both instances, he demonstrated a high tolerance for pain and a great ability to heal. He displays no obvious signs of disability from those injuries.

634 Popeye is not often seen in late summer and fall, although when he does make an appearance at that time of year he is often seen fishing in and around the far pool of Brooks Falls. In early summer, he prefers to fish the lip and as a larger male he usually has easy access to that productive fishing spot.

 

747

A scruffy looking bear standing in water A scruffy looking bear standing in water

Left image
747 on July 4, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Right image
747 on September 14, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Law

Identification

Bear 747 is a very large adult male with wide-set, peg-like ears and a blocky muzzle. In early summer, his reddish-brown fur sheds in a patchy manner. Like many adult males, he often has scars and wounds on his face and neck. In late summer and fall, he is typically very fat with a low-hanging belly and uniformly dark brown fur.

Biography

Few brown bears ever grow as large as the bear who shares an identification number with a jet airplane. When 747 was first identified in 2004, he was a relatively young bear, only a few years old and unable to compete with larger bears for the most preferred fishing locations. Since then, he has grown into his identification number.

747 is a skilled and efficient angler. He’s most often found fishing in the jacuzzi or near the far pool. Only rival males of comparable size, of which there are very few, can challenge him for fishing spots. Despite his great size, 747 yielded to the river’s most dominant bear, 856, for many years until summer 2021. This past July, 747 asserted his dominance over his long-time rival to become the river’s most dominant male bear.

Although dominant bears can maintain their rank in the hierarchy through aggression, 747 typically keeps his status by sheer size alone. Most bears recognize they cannot compete with him physically and they yield space upon his approach. He was estimated to weigh more than 1,400 pounds (636 kg) in September 2020 and he appears at least as large this year.

 

812

photo of a bear standing at the lip of a waterfall photo of a bear standing at the lip of a waterfall

Left image
812 on July 6, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of L. Law

Right image
812 on September 4, 2021
Credit: Photo courtesy of N. Boak

Identification

Bear 812 has grizzled brown fur and crescent shaped ears. He closely resembles 503, an older brother. Behaviorally, 812 can be identified by his tendency to lick his lips frequently and use rocks as a platform to eat salmon. He will also extend a front leg forward when fishing on the lip of Brooks Falls.

Biography

812 is a quickly growing young adult male. He was first identified as an independent two-year-old bear in 2017. He prefers to fish the lip and the far pool of Brooks Falls.

So far in his life, 812 has remained tolerant of other bears and he’s often seen playing with or fishing near other young adult bears. He is frequently seen in the close proximity of 503. Interestingly, 812 also seems willing to test the tolerance of more dominant bears. He will occasionally approach fishing spots at the falls already occupied by larger bears. The other bears seem to recognize he is not likely to act aggressively toward them or pose a physical threat in many cases. This can give 812 greater access to productive fishing spots at the falls. He is believed to be the offspring of 402.

 
*Bear identification and biography text written by explore.org's resident naturalist, Mike Fitz.
** Some images have been flipped to give better comparisons.

Last updated: October 6, 2021

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