Fat Bear Week 2020: Who deserved the win?

Winner winner, salmon dinner. Last Wednesday, Bear 747 was crowned the 2020 Fat Bear Week Champion. 

Katmai National Park and Preserve, located in King Salmon, Alaska, hosts the annual Fat Bear Week contest to celebrate local bears fattening up for hibernation season. People from around the world become engaged by voting for the winner. (Photo via explore.org)
A photo of champion 747 after last hibernation season compared with one taken at the start of the competition. (Photo via explore.org)

In the final round, 747 beat out opponent 32 “Chunk” by 25,201 votes. Now that we know the results, only one question remains: Did 747 truly deserve the win?

There’s no denying that 747, the bear which shares its identification number with a cargo aircraft, is indeed the fattest bear in Katmai – I’ll give credit where credit is due. In an equitable race, this certainly would be sufficient to award him the title.

However, as more and more “Chunk” supporters are discovering, the Fat Bear Week competition is not entirely fair. The runner-up may not have the higher estimated weight of the two, but certainly is worthy of more praise and celebration than 747. 

After finishing in second place in last year’s competition at 1,400 lbs, 747 came out of hibernation already on top as the largest male in Katmai. This provided him with an unfair advantage, as he automatically dominated the fishing scene and didn’t need to gain as much weight as his competitors.

A photo of runner-up 32 “Chunk” after last hibernation season compared with one taken at the start of the competition. (Photo via explore.org)

32 “Chunk” was scrappy and scrawny from the beginning, leaving him in a difficult position at the bottom of the bear hierarchy. Through sheer intelligence and individuality, Chunk managed to quickly up his weight from 1,100 lbs in September 2019 to an estimated 1,350 lbs this season.

Unlike most males, Chunk chooses to avoid aggression, and instead waits for other bears to fish before scavenging for leftovers himself. Despite having the ability to kill anything in his path, he is unique and spends his free time playing with fellow competitors.

Anyone with half a brain can see that 32’s strong work ethic and abnormally large heart deserves recognition through the championship crown. So why doesn’t the competition recognize this?

Mason’s IB math teachers are constantly reminding us that the correct answer isn’t worth much if we can’t show our work. Fat Bear Week is currently judged by the statistical end product – but the criteria should account for the physical and psychological journey which leads to this fattening.