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747 soars past the competition as Katmai’s new Fat Bear Week champion

Bear 747, photographed Sept. 20, 2020, is the champion in Katmai National Park and Preserve's Fat Bear Week competition this year. (NPS photo)

Like all good things, Fat Bear Week has come to its inevitable end.

A week ago, 12 of Katmai National Park and Preserve’s chunkiest chunks began a cutthroat competition. Now, after a single-elimination bracket allowed voters to choose their favorite pudgy predators, a single beefy brown bear reigns supreme.

In the end, it came down to two fearsome fatties, 32 Chunk and 747. But only one airplane-like unit came out on top.

“747 earned it," Katmai media ranger Naomi Boak said of the winner. “He is our biggest, fattest bear.”

While 747 has been runner-up in years past, he’s never ascended the throne. Some who work at the park say he may even be the largest bear they’ve ever witnessed.

Bear 32 on Sept. 16, 2020. (Photo by N. Boak / NPS)

As Fat Bear Week recedes into the past, the bears will climb into their dens and hunker down for the winter — their chances of survival only bolstered by their bulk.

For the next few weeks, however, they’ll continue to eat, never truly feeling full, Boak said. But their metabolisms will slow and the bears will hide out for the rest of the winter in their dens, where they’ll rely on their flab to get them through the next few months of hibernation.

As cases of COVID-19 continue to surge and an election season looks to be the nastiest yet, some might wish to be a bear for a few months, bellies full, only to wake when the days are longer and the sun warmer.

And by then, it’ll be just about time for Fat Bear Week 2021.

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