Beloved Brown Bear Otis Seen Alive and Well in Katmai National Park After Going ‘Missing in Action’

by Jon D. B.
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Whew! Rest easy, bear lovers! Katmai National Park & Preserves’ “most beloved bear,” Otis, has finally shown up to feed and is alive and well!

Officially, he is Bear 480. In the hearts of conservationists and bear lovers everywhere – he is Otis. The one and only. So when Otis took far longer than expected to show up at Katmai National Park’s Brooks River this year, the park – and Otis fans everywhere – became deeply concerned. We should cut him some slack, sure, as he can’t be as fast as he once was. Otis is an old (and we mean old for a brown bear), old fellow now. Yet this is exactly why so many were so worried. None of us know how much longer Otis has left.

But fear no more – for Otis is well! Bear 480 was sighted last night, Tuesday July 27 – and Katmai National Park has the full, jubilant report on their official Facebook page:

“In Katmai, if someone were to call out “Elvis is in the house,” we’d say “okay” and go on with our work. But if a ranger puts out a radio call that “Bear 480 Otis is in the house,” we drop everything,” the park posts Wednesday, alongside the above photo of Otis.

“Otis is indeed in the house!” Katmai celebrates. “480 Otis is one of our oldest (25 or 26 years old) and probably most beloved bear.”

In 2021, however, “He has been missing in action… Last year he arrived at the Brooks River on June 23rd. The latest he has ever arrived is July 17th.”

“We were concerned,” park staff adds. “But last night at Brooks Falls, there he was, fishing for salmon. Brown bears lead challenging lives and 26 is quite an achievement, especially for a male bear. So celebrate the return of Bear 480 Otis with us!”

Katmai National Park: ‘Otis is in the House!’

Let’s just say if there’s an official Outsider Happy Dance (which there is now) – I’m doing it as we speak. Otis is an absolute icon, and one of my favorite living beings on the planet. He is the quintessential “Fat Bear” of Alaska’s “Fat Bear Week” competition. Which is, for me, better than the Olympics. Sorry not sorry.

For context, “Fat Bear Week” is a celebration of “all the hard work that these bears do to survive and thrive and get through six months of starvation,” says Naomi Boak, park media ranger, to the Washington Post.

And Otis is, of course, a past winner. All in all, he’s about as famous as a wild bear can get. You can even find him in Disney Nature’s aptly-named 2014 documentary, Bears.

Keeping up with Otis and his Katmai National Park kin on a regular basis, however, is far easier than tracking down that Disney-doc, even. He’s a fixture at Brooks Falls, which means he’s often on Katmai’s LIVE BEAR CAM – which you can watch below. Or by clicking this link at any time of any day!

**Chat rolls are on 7 am – 6 pm PT from Monday through Friday. Brooks Falls in Alaska’s Katmai National Park is the best place in the world to watch brown bears feasting on salmon as they swim upstream to spawn. Find out the best time to watch live and learn more about Katmai and its brown bears on Explore.org

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