Alaska Life

Fat Bear Week gets a new champ as votes pour in for Grazer

A new queen of corpulence ascended the throne in the annual Fat Bear Week contest Tuesday, toppling her tubby opponent in a landslide vote.

Bear 128, known as Grazer, became a first-time champion of the competition hosted annually by the National Park Service that features the brown bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve as they gorge themselves on salmon in preparation for winter. Grazer received more than 108,000 votes in the final round against Bear 32, known as Chunk, who garnered a little more than 23,000 votes.

After a brief scare that the popular contest held since 2014 would be halted by a government shutdown that was averted at the last minute, voting kicked off last week to crown the biggest bruin in Katmai. Administered by the park, and the Katmai Conservancy, the event celebrates the bears that feed at Brooks Falls and surrounding areas in Katmai.

Grazer, described on the contest website as one of the “most formidable, successful, and adaptable bears” at Brooks River, advanced out of an early round of voting last Thursday against Bear 151, Walker. On Monday, Grazer was up against 2019 champion and a favorite among many Fat Bear fans, Bear 435 — Holly.

Both female bears are known as powerful mothers in the park — in a rare act, Holly adopted an orphaned cub in 2014, and Grazer is described as a “particularly defensive” mother who confronts larger bears to protect her cubs. In their semifinal matchup, Grazer punched through to the championship round with 83,342 votes, to Holly’s 18,597.

On the other end of the bracket, Chunk, who was first identified in the park in 2007, blasted past the competition by beating out one of the spring cubs from the Fat Bear Jr. competition as well as Bear 901, an adult female who returned to Brooks Falls with three cubs this year. But in the end, “Chunk got Grazered,” the park wrote in a social media post.

In total, more than 1.3 million votes were cast during Fat Bear Week, according to the contest website.

[In honor of Fat Bear Week, a close-up look at lifestyles of the fat and famous]