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The second-most important election of the fall is over.
Katmai National Park named 480 Otis its 2016 Fat Bear Champion on October 18, after a week-long March Madness-style tournament that let the public vote on which of the park’s ursine residents they thought had put on the most winter weight.
In a final vote on October 17, Otis soundly clinched his second title, defeating runner-up 435 Holly in a matchup the park dubbed “the zen master” versus “the queen of bass.”
Otis’s win is something of a comeback for the male Kodiak. At 19 or 20 years old, Otis is well into his golden years (brown bears have an average lifespan of about 25 years in the wild) and has slipped down the park’s bear hierarchy as he has aged. Pictures taken of him in 2013 showed a much skinnier bear than in years past, and recently he has faced challenges from younger males seeking to occupy his preferred fishing spots on the Brooks River.
This summer, Otis mostly avoided the river’s dominant bears, instead patiently staking out an out-of-the-way pool for hours at a time.
“Bears can gain about 30% of their weight from springtime to fall,” said Ranger David Kopshever in a video posted by the park. “480 [Otis] probably pushed the maximum of that. He probably put on 30, 40, maybe even 50% of his weight gain throughout the season.”
Katmai announced Otis’s Fat Bear win as part of its Alaska Day celebrations, which commemorate the territory’s transfer from Russian to American control. While the park’s bears enter hibernation in October and November, viewers can check out Explore.org’s bear cams for a chance at catching a straggler.