ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Oct.6 (Reuters) – One of the former ursines of Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska is now a four-time song champion.
Otis, a 24 to 26-year-old brown bear, was crowned the winner of Katmai’s annual Fat Bear Week on Tuesday. He won in an online competition between 12 large salmon rodent bears.
Otis ended up beating the other finalist, a chocolate brown man known as Walker, in the final round of voting.
“The portly paunchy patriarch has persevered to pulverize the Baron of Beardonkadonk,” the park said in its Twitter post.
Fat Bear Week, a joint project of the park and its nonprofit partners, the Katmai Conservancy and media organization explore.org, has become an internet sensation.
Wildlife fans submitted votes in a playoff-style competition with photographs and video of bears feasting on a waterfall site on the salmon-rich Brooks River. Explore.org’s “bear cam” captured live footage of bear action in Brooks Falls.
Otis, thanks to his longevity, is a Fat Bear institution.
First documented at the Falls in 2001, Otis was the first Fat Bear Champion, winning in 2014 when the event took place over a single day. He also won the 2016 and 2017 titles. The Katmai Conservancy gave its name to a fundraising project; last year, the Otis Fund raised over $ 230,000 for Katmai bear research, education and conservation projects.
In his old age, Otis can no longer compete with the younger, stronger bears for the best fishing spots, according to park officials. Two of his canines are missing and the others are worn.
But when it comes to salmon, Otis is deceptively smart, according to the explore.org website.
“While Otis sometimes seems to be napping or not paying attention, most of the time he’s focused on the water, and that results in a relatively high salmon catch,” the website says.
Katmai spans over four million acres on the Alaska Peninsula in the southwestern part of the state. The park is home to approximately 2,200 brown bears weighing up to 1,000 pounds or more. The bears are fattened by salmon swimming from Bristol Bay, site of the largest salmon runs in the world.
Bears need their girth because they can lose a third of their weight during their winter hibernation, park officials said.
Even with the end of Fat Bear Week, park officials said on Twitter that Otis “is still eating.”
Reporting by Yereth Rosen; edited by Diane Craft
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