Good day, Fat Bear America, and welcome to Fat Bear Week, Day 1! We have two mighty matches on today’s docket. Let’s jump (or waddle?) right in.
Match 1: 335 aka “Jolly” vs 164 aka “Bucky Dent” or “Shower Bear”
Some of the youngest on the fat bear bracket go head-to-head today. 335 aka “Jolly” is representing the subadults (2.5- to 5-year-old cubs living on their own for the first time) and she has this whole undeniable blond bombshell thing going for her. But don’t be fooled: She is bringing more than her good looks to this competition! Jolly flailed a little as she began her summer out on her own, but she has bloomed — and ballooned — over the season as she got her bearings.
And by “got her bearings” I mean sometimes her own mom, Holly, would literally chase her away. (Also, sometimes she wouldn’t, but we’ll discuss that more on Holly’s match day.) Jolly is proof that you can grow through what you go through, and as we watched her learn to feed and protect and take care of herself, we got front row seats to her glow-up. Jolly’s fatness was not just given to her, it was earned. I want to pick up Jolly from her first year at summer camp life and give her a big hug. I’m proud of you, Jolly. We all are.
And yet: up against Jolly is 164, who is so charming he collects nicknames. Some call him “Bucky,” which is short for “Bucky Dent,” a reference to the distinct dent in his muzzle and also a hat tip to a former New York Yankees shortstop though I am unaware of any metaphorical reason. Some also call 164 “Shower Bear” because of his signature move/lifestyle to spend most of his day in the shower of the falls next to the jacuzzi (#goals).
Most young, small bears like Bucky aka Bucky Dent aka Shower Bear would avoid such a prime and competitive location on the river but 164 has several key advantages: 1. It’s kind of a weird spot to be honest; no other bear has ever thought to (gestures air quotes) “fish” there; 2. His social skills are top notch, exuding the right amount of chill and deference that most dominant bears tolerate him; and 3. He’s got this smooth, courageous vibe. This was especially evident on the day when 856 — arguably one of the most aggressive and dominant bears at Brooks River — tried to buck Bucky out. Bucky stood up, fought back, THEN CAUGHT A FISH in the middle of the fight and proceeded to just walk away. I’ve seen the video. Not to add another nickname, but it was very James Bond. 164 is on a mission: get fat. And that he does, fearlessly and flawlessly.
Match 2: 747 aka “Bear Force One” vs 856
Is this even a match??? Ok ok well we’re looking at two of the truest giants, the biggest beasts of Katmai National Park. Bear 856 (no nickname) has been widely regarded as the most dominant bear on the river for a decade, but if there’s one bear who’s been elbowing him for the post, it’s 747. I know, this isn’t Boss Bear Week, it’s Fat Bear Week. It shouldn’t matter who pushes whom around, but I’m just setting the stage: These two are not friends.
Also, notably, does 856 have any friends? One can opt to be a bully, but it’s a lonely road. Sure, the guy’s large and in charge but there are things you should know about 856 which is that one time he killed a cub(!) and also he still goes after cubs(!) and also he is just generally a big meanie. I know it’s The Wild™ and this is Nature™ but some (most) bears get fat without terrorizing the smaller and sweeter members of their species. If someone votes for 856 it’s probably because he’s got that strong silent type/ready for a situationship gaze in his picture, just a thousand pounds of emotionally unavailable hot mess and, I don’t know, some people are into that.
Guess what I’m into? A bear so fat he doesn’t have to throw his weight around. And 747 saunters into any space of any size and immediately owns it, mostly because everyone else flees. Legend says he changes the direction of a river just by standing in it. They call him the “Bearoplane,” “Bear Force One,” and “The Incredible Bulk.” Do we even have to go into detail? Those who have seen him in person say that he is undeniably the largest bear at Brooks Falls, and weight estimates suggest that he is also one of the largest bears on Earth. He is approximately 1,400 pounds of sheer chonk. 747 is a former Fat Bear Week champion (2020) and, if I’m being real, a strong contender for this year’s title.
Voting is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Alaska time at www.fatbearweek.org!
Poet and writer Christy NaMee Eriksen is a Kundiman fellow and three-time Rasmuson Foundation awardee who lives in Juneau. She is writing about Fat Bear Week 2022 for the Anchorage Daily News.