PHOTO: A New King of the ‘Fat Bears’ Emerges

by Halle Ames

A new “Fat Bear” king has been named, and boy is he a large one. But as we always say, he’s not fat! He’s fluffy!

Or, as we like to tell ourselves after Thanksgiving, we aren’t big, just eating good. 

But you have to see this monster. Bear 747 is constantly in competition with Bear 856 for the title of the largest bear in all the land. The animals can generally be observed munching on salmon in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve. With both Bear 747 and 856 being global internet sensations, fans typically “weigh” in as they head into the national parks Fat Bear Week. 

Fat Bear Week

What is Fat Bear Week? Glad you asked. It is basically like the March Madness of bears with the fattest coming out victorious and probably full. The competition also is a celebration of their eating habits, highlighting their obvious success at living in the harsh wild. 

According to Mashable, since both Bear 747 and 856 are around 20 years old, it may be time for a younger and hungrier competitor to swoop in and take the Fat Bear title right out from under these championed eaters. And although 856 has been a force to be reckoned with in the last decade, it was 747 who won the Fat Bear contest in 2020.

Mike Fitz, a former ranger at Katmai National Park and naturalist for, questions what could possibly be the reason for Bear 856’s unforeseen upset this year. 

“Perhaps the tables have turned,” explained Fitz. “Maybe 856 isn’t feeling as strong or as well as he did in recent years. Or maybe he suffers from an injury or illness that we can’t see. Maybe the rigors of his aggressive dominance over the past decade have caught up with him. The boldness of 747 suggests that he recognized an opportunity to establish his dominance over a long-time rival, and he was keen to take advantage of the chance.”

Bear 856 And 747 Encounter The Competition

The two brown bears have been known to meet up in competition for salmon. In this video, posted by, Bear 856 and 747 assert their dominance over the river. Bear 856 ultimately backs down, reports the account. 

“They’ve encountered each other year after year, and after they matured into large adults, 856 consistently asserted his dominance over 747 (excluding 2017),” said Fitz. “This gave 856 greater access to preferred fishing spots and mating opportunities compared to 747.” 

However, Bear 856 is a success story. In 2017, scientists were worried when photos of the once championed Fat Bear looked quite skinny for his usual size. Rangers feared that 856 was injured and struggling to find food. Don’t worry. The big-boned beauty really honed in his craft at stuffing his snout and regained his impressive weight. 

Well, here is to you, Bear 747 and 856! Keep up the excellent work! Those summer bodies aren’t going to feed themselves!