With a belly full of salmon and a body full of fat, Otis the bear claims the title of the fattest bear in Katmai National Park and Preserve, US.
Fat Bear Week 2021 celebrates the hefty Ursidae who gorge themselves on salmon before hunkering down for winter hibernation.
Meaty and undefeated, bodacious Otis beat 11 other bulging bears in elimination rounds based on fan votes to become the Champion of Chonk.
His prize? Twelve months of bragging rights and a very long nap.
Bulking up is important for bears because it tides them through the cold winter; but it also helps the ecosystem around them.
The bears gorge themselves on the Pacific salmon that swim upriver to spawn. But these flabby mammals are messy eaters and toss the salmon carcasses around for other scavengers to eat. The salmon bits also end up fertilising the soil, plants and fungi in the area, making the forest grow rich and happy.
The Brooks River in Katmai National Park is one of the richest salmon-filled rivers in the world, so the bears who feast on the fish are some of the chonkiest on the planet. Their rotundness is an indicator for how well the river is doing, so we want to see them as fat as possible to know that the eco-system is thriving.
Otis has done his part in this complex cycle and can now retire to a quiet cave for a long slumber.
Deborah Devis is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) in biology and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in plant molecular genetics from the University of Adelaide.
Read science facts, not fiction...
There’s never been a more important time to explain the facts, cherish evidence-based knowledge and to showcase the latest scientific, technological and engineering breakthroughs. Cosmos is published by The Royal Institution of Australia, a charity dedicated to connecting people with the world of science. Financial contributions, however big or small, help us provide access to trusted science information at a time when the world needs it most. Please support us by making a donation or purchasing a subscription today.