Otis, the four-time Fat Bear Week champion, fishes at Katmai National Park on Sept. 16, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Lian Law, National Parks Service)

Otis, the four-time Fat Bear Week champion, fishes at Katmai National Park on Sept. 16, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Lian Law, National Parks Service)

Katmai announces its hefty champion

O, tis a hefty bear.

KENAI — After putting his new winter body on display for the world at Katmai National Park and Preserve the past week, one of the park’s pudgiest Fat Bear Week contenders — Otis, bear 480 — was crowned this year’s winner on Tuesday.

The park service tweeted the announcement at 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“The people have spoken! The portly patriarch of paunch preserved to pulverize the Baron of Beardonkadon in the final match of #FatBearWeek 2021,” the tweet said. “480 Otis can now boast a bevy of bests with this fourth first place finish. As we celebrate, like a true champ, 480 is still chowing down.”

According to the park service, Otis was between 4 and 6 years old when he was first discovered at Katmai in 2001, making him one of the oldest bears of the bunch.

The chunky bear has two missing canine teeth and a floppy right ear, but the patience he exhibits while fishing — not wasting his energy chasing salmon like many of his counterparts — has proved successful in his journey to Fat Bear stardom, the park service said. Otis took home the gold in 2014, 2016 and 2017 before winning Tuesday evening.

In an earlier interview with the Clarion, Lian Law, the visual information specialist at the park, said Fat Bear Week is really a celebration of success for these animals and the ecosystem in which they live.

She noted that in particular, the Katmai habitat has one of the healthiest sockeye runs in the world.

USA Today reported that voter turnout broke even last year’s record of over 650,000 — this year more than 793,000 votes were cast.

And as for all the rest of the estimated 2,200 bears who live in the park, there’s always next year.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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