Fat bear champ is still gobbling fish and getting fatter

Otis probably ate around 25,000 fish during his lifetime. Perhaps even more.
Weeks after Otis won the 2021 Fat Bear Week contest, a celebration of the bears' success in the wild was captured by explore.org cameras at Katmai National Park Preserve. Otis continued to catch salmon on October 21, deep into Alaskan fall. If they haven’t, many Katmai bears will soon hibernate.

Reddish color indicates that the salmon Otis was caught is close to the end of its lifespan and Alaska's salmon run is in decline. When salmon are preparing to reproduce, they absorb their scales (revealing the flesh beneath). They die soon after.

Otis still eats salmon to stay warm during the winter hibernation. Otis will eat from his fat reserves and lose around one-third of his body weight. He's also planning for 2022 when he will emerge from his den.

Mike Fitz, a Katmai park ranger who is currently a resident naturalist at explore.org, stated that Katmai bears are often starved in spring. "Any extra fat Otis retains after he comes out of hibernation, will be required in springtime," Fitz said. Springtime is a long season of hunger for Katmai bears.

Below is Otis' October catch.

Otis's unique and highly successful fishing style is shown in this video. Otis uses very little energy fishing. He doesn't move around. He doesn't dash. He waits for the fish to come by, and he is mostly alone at the river's edge. He also becomes impressively fat.

Otis is a master of energy economics, which I like to call him. Fitz shared his experience and patience to make huge profits in calories while using little energy," Fitz said to Mashable in 2019.

Otis is a master of energy economics, which I like to call him.

Otis, who is missing his teeth and may be Katmai's oldest fat bear (at 25 years old), was able to gain weight through his fishing skills in 2021. Otis arrived in Katmai's salmon-filled Brooks River this summer. The image below shows how Otis transformed from a skinny bear to a slender one in seven weeks.

Otis's impressive 2021 transition. Credit: N. Boak/C. Spencer/NPS

We wish you a successful hibernation, Otis.


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